The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to winnow amaranth

Sifter"How would you like to come over and help me thresh amaranth?" I asked my mom, and she gamely agreed.  She was a great help as we worked through two big grocery bags of seed heads, but when it came time to winnow, Mom clearly didn't think too much of my bowl method.  Instead, she suggested that I use my flour sifter to separate the seeds from the chaff.

Sure enough, amaranth seeds are just small enough to drop through the holes in the mesh bottom while most of the chaff stays up in the chamber to be dumped out.  Sifting is also considerably faster than the bowl method since one round in the sifter is equivalent to several rounds of pouring the seeds from bowl to bowl.

After a great deal of trial and error, we figured out that a combination of the bowl method and the sifter method are best for winnowing amaranth.  We would sift a time or two, then use the bowl method to remove the chaff small enough to fit through the screen.  Then, if we felt like it, we might sift again to get the seeds really clean.

Amaranth seedsOnce our seeds were winnowed, Mom noticed another potential problem --- there were dozens of tiny bugs wandering around on our amaranth kernels.  I've read that you can bake grain in the oven for a short time to kill bugs before storing it, but I want to be able to save some of the seeds to plant next year.  So I popped the grain in the freezer instead, and also plan to eat our amaranth over the next month or two rather than doling it out over the next year.

Total harvest from one garden bed was 3.5 cups and we took about an hour or two to process it (but we weren't in any hurry.)  I'm thrilled by the harvest and by the relative ease of processing our first real batch of homegrown grains.  We will definitely expand our amaranth planting next year.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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how do you remove the bugs from the grain then? you say you freeze it or put it in the oven. then do you pick them out?

store bought amaranth often has unhulled grains in it that are black. how to remove them? there are so many.

Comment by Anonymous Thu Feb 9 19:08:11 2012

Generally, people just eat the bugs. :-) I know that may sound disgusting, but I suspect most homesteaders accidentally consume a lot of bugs in their daily life, and it's really pretty good for you.

Actually, if you freeze the grain soon after picking, chances are there's only one or two bugs, or even just a few miniscule eggs. It's only if you let those bugs breed unchecked over the winter that you get into trouble.

Not sure about black grains. Amaranth doesn't really have hulls (except the chaffy material that you thresh off, but it wouldn't look like a black grain.)

Comment by anna Thu Feb 9 19:15:44 2012
Hey I don't know if anyone will read this, but thanks for the help. Blowing on the chaff was taking way too long. Also I'm not sure if any one can help but, my amaranth is wild and I'm 90% sure it's amaranth, I just don't know what kind. If anyone is good at identifying amaranth, and is willing to help me, that would be great. It has mostly black some brown seeds and the plant is all green with some purple. I think it might be Amaranthus viridis but I'm not positive. Thanks!
Comment by Kristian Wed Sep 4 16:31:04 2013
Kristian --- Sorry I can't help your ID without a photo. One tip I'd give you is to do a google image search for the species you're interested in and see if the photos match up with your plant. Good luck!
Comment by anna Fri Sep 6 09:09:09 2013
If it's wild, it's more likely pigweed than amaranth. They're pretty much the same thing, but true amaranth is better for seeds/leaves, pigweed is, well, feral.
Comment by Kate Sat Sep 14 19:43:59 2013
I am going to try the flour sifter idea.
Comment by Regina Cohn Sun Oct 1 22:25:19 2017

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