Friday, August 12, 2016

Amaranth


A weed, cereal grain, leafy vegetable, and ornamental describe species of the family amaranthaceae. Most gardeners are probably already growing the weed species, much to their dismay, which is commonly called pigweed.  If you have trou


ble with this summer annual weed then maybe you should look at growing a species with a purpose.  Amaranth is cultivated for a leafy veggie or for seed used as a grain cereal. 



Unfamiliar with amaranth?  At first glance it looks like bird seed but prepared right it is delicious and nutritious. Anciently amaranth was grown by the Aztec and considered sacred. Amaranth is an ancient grain but new to a lot of people. In Asia, Amaranth tricolor has been grown throughout history as a leafy green.  Leaves from all amaranth considered healthy.  They are high in calcium and iron but have high amount of oxalic acid which can make the calcium less available to the body. 

Probably a reason amaranth is of interest to the health conscience consumer is because it is a valuable protein source.  The seeds of amaranth have the amino acid lysine that is absent in many grains. If amaranth is combined with other grains, it makes a complete protein and therefore a great option for the home gardener to grow.  Recipes are becoming more popular for the small seed grain.  So give it a try.  It can be used in edible landscape or grown in the food garden.

Grain amaranths are a beautiful plant.  They can grow from 6-9 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  The flowering seed heads are colorful and beautiful with golden, orange and burgundy colors.  They deserve consideration in a flower bed as well as in the vegetable garden.  The arananth grown for a leafy green is shorter reaching a height of 3 feet.


Both grain and leaf amaranth are tender plants that will not tolerate frost. The seeds germinating in warm soils of 70-75 degrees.  The seeds are very small and must be direct seeded in a sunny spot. The seeds do not need to be covered but can be lightly covered.  You can plant like corn in rows to avoid the need to thin or broadcast the seed then thin the plants to one per 18 to 24 ".  Amaranth needs good fertile soil rich in organic matter with a dry organic fertilizer mixed in.  It appreciates an occasional feeding of fish emulsion for needed nitrogen.  I have found that grasshoppers like the leaves.  You can protect them with row covers as seedlings.  The deer also like amaranth.

The seeds mature at different times on the flower head starting at the bottom of the flower head and working up.  Since the seed is small you can cut the flower when the majority of seeds have matured.  Place the seed head out of the sun on a tray to finish drying.  When removing the seeds gloves are helpful because the flowers are somewhat spikey.  Rub the seed head allowing the grain to fall into a bowl or tray.  You can also rub seeds off into a bucket as they ripen if you prefer to no harvest the whole flower head.


Once the seeds are in a bowl you need to remove the chaff and flower heads.  Try swirling the seeds in the bowl.  The seeds are light and tend to move to the bottom and flower parts move to the top and can be picked out.



Amaranth seed is becoming easier to find.  I have listed a few places you can purchase seed:

  • Bountiful Gardens
  • Seeds of Change
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Varieties of Amaranth
  • Burgundy Grain Amaranth- white seeds
  • Golden Giant Amaranth- white seeds
  • Elana's Rojo Amaranth- grain seed
  • Hopi Red Dye- red seeds used as dye and  young leaves used as greens, beautiful ornamental
  • AGreen Calaloo Amaranth- used as a green
  • Love Lies Bleeding- ornamental flower


Monday, August 8, 2016

How To Cook Green Beans: Roasted Green Beans & Lemon Chiffon Sauce



Green beans can be prepared in a variety of ways.  The method you choose in cooking your green beans should be based on the age and thickness of the bean.

Super fresh green beans about the thickness of a pencil are best boiled and dressed with a vinaigrette or sauce.  With older thicker beans, consider roasting them.  Roasting infuses and concentrates the flavor of older beans while the fresh sweet flavor of younger beans is preserved best by boiling.
 
Slenderett, Royal Burgundy (H), and Pencil Pod (H)

Types of Beans
Green beans are eaten young while the seeds are immature.  Yellow wax beans and purple beans are cooked and prepared just like green beans.  They are best eaten fresh when the thickness of a pencil.  

Haricots verts which is French for green bean are a delicate bean often used as a fillet bean.  They are best boiled or blanched but require a shorter cooking time. They are a gourmet bean worth growing.

The old fashioned string bean had to be stringed before cooking.  With so many choices of stringless beans I do not see a reason to grow a string bean.  The stringless beans only need the tips snapped off and they are ready to cook.

 Recipes

Below are just a couple of our families favorite green bean recipes.   

Roasted Green Beans



This is a great recipe for the less than prime green beans that are produced late in the season.  Older, thicker green beans seem to have less flavor and the roasting seems to intensify the flavor.  Any of your favorite combinations of herbs can be used.  

2-3 Tbs of olive oil
2 fresh garlic cloves minced
1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger root
 Salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 lb of green beans with end snapped off

Mix the oil, garlic, ginger root, salt, and pepper in a boil.  Spread the beans on a shallow tray and drizzle and baste with all the oil mixture. Roast at 450.  Turn the beans once.  Roast until lightly browned approximately 15 minutes.



Green Beans & Lemon Chiffon Sauce
 (Taste of Home June/July 2007)
My family loves these beans. The sauce is also good on broccoli.

1 1/2 lbs fresh green beans with ends trimmed
1/2 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup of chicken broth
3 beaten egg yolks
1/8 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup of butter, cubed
2 tsp fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped green onion

Place beans in water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender crisp.  In a small saucepan whisk the cornstarch, broth, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

Cook stirring constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens and bubbles around the edges.

Add butter, a little at a time, whisk to help melt.  Stir in the parsley and onions.  Drain the beans and top with this delicious citrus sauce.