29 August 2009

Late Summer Heat Puts Amaranth Front and Center

There are several Amaranth varieties growing and blooming on our little slice of the Earth. One is 7 feet tall, another only 6 inches with broad, pink and green striped leaves.

Pigweed is one common name used for all varieties...that's not my favorite flower nickname, however. Chinese Spinach is a nickname I can live with.

All Amaranth varieties have nutritious leaves used as a food source for hundreds of years. The seeds are a source of vegetarian protein used in many ways from popping to steaming. Ground into flour, gluten free pastries are made from the seeds.

Globe Amaranth, an old fashioned everlasting flower, is seen here with Wave Petunias in a bed by the garden shed. This fall I'll dry some of the dark red/purple Globe Amaranth flowers in silica beads to use over the winter. The Strawberry Fields and Bicolor Pink would probably fade to some grey color.

There are many ways to preserve flowers successfully: Air drying, silica, antifreeze, glycerine, pressing, sand, microwaving, borax-cornmeal-salt mixtures, etc. Here's a link to a North Dakota State University description of the various recommended methods.

The photo below is an Amaranth that volunteers every year in the same spots. Several years ago I planted hybrid Amaranths and over the years this is the one that persists from the seeds that fall onto the soil every fall.
Another new one to my garden this year, Tiger Eye Amaranth, looks like a sun loving Coleus in the garden. No matter which Amaranth I add to the assortment every year, each one is a delight when the summer heat drags on.

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