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Amaranth Harvest and Other Seed Crops

Sunday, October 30, 2016 21:48
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(Before It's News)

Here is my amaranth harvest for 2016.

A small Golden Giant amaranth head.

That's it. One small head of amaranth seeds. But even that was a surprise, because I thought the entire planting was bust. I planted a large bed of amaranth last spring, but that was before our two months of upper 90s and no rain. After we finally got rain, no amaranth grew and the little plot was soon overgrown with everything I didn't plant.

Amaranth is usually easy to grow and relatively heat and drought resistant. Both greens and seeds are nutritious as human food, but I especially grow it for animal feed. It is rich in protein, calcium, copper, and is a good source of lysine, an amino acid (which makes it a good protein balancer for corn, which we also grow but is low in lysine).

Both chickens and goats will eat the seed heads, which require virtually no processing. I store whole heads in large trash cans and toss them to the chickens who peck the seeds out. For the goats the heads can be chopped or the seeds roughly stripped (I just pull the head through a gloved hand). If the stems are chopped or broken to small pieces the goats will eat that too. Leaves can be fed either fresh or dried (which I add to my DIY mineral mix). The stalks can be chopped finely and fed as bulk in a homegrown feed mix.

The one plant that made it was stunted and pretty much hidden in the weeds. I didn't notice it until we were getting ready to turn the goats into the garden. Like my lone hope sweet potato I'm considering it a seed crop and am grateful for at least the one head. It will give me a lot of fresh seed to plant next spring, when I can hope for a better year and an abundant harvest.

Three other seed crops have been field corn,

Truckers Favorite open pollinated corn


Ozark Razorback cowpeas

and cushaw squash.

Cushaw winter squash, harvested from an unexpected place.

Of the corn I planted only a small patch for the purpose of getting next year's seed. We knew the goat barn would take up all of our time and so chose not to plant our usual quarter acre of corn. Corn seed is only viable for a year or maybe two, so being able to have fresh seed next year was important.

The cowpea harvest would have been more abundant if we'd gotten good rainfall, but at least I have some. Like the corn it feeds us plus our critters, so it's something I like to grow every year.

The cushaws were volunteers! In the buck pasture of all places. I fed rinds, pulp, and seeds to pigs and goats, who both had access to the buck pasture. I'm guessing they spread the seed in their manure. Even while the pasture was drying up I watered these vine's with leftovers from the goats' water buckets. They are small for cushaws, but will provide a good amount of winter squash eating for Dan and me this winter (with more rinds, pulp and seeds to feed).

On the bright side, this year we were plentiful in blueberries, figs, apples, pears, almonds, acorns, and pecans. Strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and elderberries weren't record harvests, but I got plenty for pies, jams, jellies, and ice cream.

Winter gardening may be a bust this year too. We've only gotten a quarter inch of rain in the past two and a half months, so my garden soil is either powder or hard as a rock. Hopefully things will change soon.

So how is everyone else's harvest doing? Do any of you have a fall or winter garden in the works?


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