…in your survival garden. Amaranth is a pseudo-cereal. In the garden, it grows and harvests like a cereal grain (e.g. wheat, rice). In the kitchen, it cooks like a cereal grain. But it’s actually an achene: a seed surrounded by a dry fruit. You’ve eaten achenes before. Sunflower seeds are achenes; so is buckwheat. Strawberries are achenes attached to an accessory fruit. Quinoa and hempseeds are also achenes. Why grow amaranth, rather than wheat or rice?
1. No hulling necessary. After you grown wheat or rice or barley or oats, the hulls need to be removed. This is very time-consuming and difficult to do by hand. Otherwise, you would need specialized machinery to remove the hulls. But amaranth, like most other achenes, does not have hulls. You simply separate the grain from the plant; remove any bits of leaves and debris, then rinse and cook. Growing your own food is labor intensive; anything you can do to get more calories and nutrition with less work is a big plus.
2. A little amaranth plants a lot of land. The “seeding rate” is the weight of seed needed to plant an area of land (one acre or one hectare). The seeding rate for any plant depends on the weight of each seed and the number of seeds planted per acre. For example, a typical seeding rate for wheat is around 100 lbs/acre. Amaranth seeds are very small and light. A typical seeding rate for amaranth is only 0.5 lbs/acre. If you have one pound of wheat seed, you can plant 435 square feet of wheat (1/100th of one acre). If you have one pound of amaranth seed, you can plant two full acres (87000 square feet). The low end of seeding rates for amaranth is 1/4 of one pound per acre, so you could conceivably plant 4 acres from one lb of seed.
3. Yields are good. Typical yields for amaranth range from 750 to 1500 lbs/acre. So one pound of amaranth, planting 2 acres, can produce 1500 to 3000 lbs of grain. You can store a single pound of amaranth seed, and have enough to plant a large area of land. Would you rather store 100 lbs of wheat seed (to plant 2 acres) or 1 lb of amaranth seed?
4. Amaranth is a forgiving crop. Most crops are sensitive to planting density. Plant wheat or rice too close together, or too far apart, and your yield per acre will drop. Amaranth adjusts to the planting density. Plant amaranth too close together, and it self-thins. Plant amaranth too far apart, and each plant will produce more grain. Seeding rates from 0.25 to 4.0 lbs/acre produce about the same yield. What this means for the backyard gardener is that you can broadcast the seeds (disperse the seeds by tossing them, then rake into the soil) without harming yields. It makes planting the crop that much easier.
5. Lots of grain per plant stem. Each wheat or rice plant has relatively few grain per plant stem. This makes harvesting the grain a lot of work. You have to cut many stems for each pound of grain. Amaranth produces ounces of grain for each stem. It’s less work to harvest the grain.
6. Highly nutritious. Amaranth is a complete protein, with all the essential amino acid in idea amounts. It’s also high in protein: about 14% protein, compared to only 8% for rice and 10 to12% for wheat. Rice and wheat are lacking in lysine, an essential amino acid. Amaranth has all the essential amino acids you need. Amaranth is also higher in magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium (important electrolytes) and soluble fiber than wheat or rice.
7. Amaranth seeds are valuable. As a result of the above considerations, amaranth seeds will be valuable for bartering when the SHTF. If there is a disruption in the food supply, people will turn to gardening and mini-farming to produce food. The ability of amaranth to produce a large crop from a small amount of seed means that a pound of amaranth will be worth much more than a pound of wheat or rice or other seed.