Harvesting Amaranth Seed

How did you spend your labor day? Picnicking? Watching a parade? Visiting family and friends?

harvesting-amaranth-seeds

harvesting amaranth seeds photo by lsimon

Next year you could harvest amaranth seeds. I have been posting how much I enjoy this plant. And how productive it is. We have harvested the leaves, and cooked them as greens. Early in the summer, the stems taste just like asparagus. And later in the summer we harvest the seeds.

The seeds ripen over several weeks. We have been collecting them for 4 or 5 weeks already. And they still keep coming, fewer now though.

When I first wrote about amaranth a reader asked how to harvest them. I had no idea, so we decided to plant some to see if we could find out.

It is really very easy. Look at the contraption V uses. From his stash of stuff in the garage, he has rigged an amaranth collection device. It requires a snow saucer and a bungy cord.

If you live in the south, you probably don’t have a snow saucer. Maybe you can ask for one for Christmas from your northern relatives. Or use a (clean) garbage can lid, turned upside down.

Any kind of cord works. And you can go cordless, harvesting with two people. One to hold the amaranth collection device, the other to massage the fluffy heads so the seeds fall out.

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amaranth seeds and chaff photo by vsimon

You get seeds, chaff, and bugs. We let the mess dry for a day. Then blow gently across the amaranth collection device and the chaff floats away. Most of the bugs go too. You can pick out the ones that haven’t left the party yet.

From our small patch of amaranth we have harvested several pounds of seeds already.

We call amaranth a gluten free grain. It isn’t really a grain, we just use it like grains. It can be ground into flour for baked goods. I’ll probably just use the seeds for breakfast cereal and in soups. And not try to grind it.

Next year you can plant some amaranth of your own. We purchased seeds from Bountiful Gardens. We will plant a few seeds collected this year.

cleaned-amaranth

cleaned amaranth seeds photo by vsimon

Our plants this year had golden, red, or green flowers. The green flowers had black seeds. V separately collected seeds from each color of flower. He plans to plant a few of each next year, and see if they grow the same. And we will probably try some new varieties too.

Please tell us if you grow amaranth and how you like it. Or if you are inspired to try it.

U is for Upside Down Cake

upsidedown2 (3a)

nectarine-red-plum-cornmeal-upside-down-cake photo by vsimon

There are not a lot of choices for food related words that start with the letter U. Utensil works, but upside down cake is more satisfying.

Today we stray from the classic pineapple and use stone fruits that are in season. Nectarine and Red Plum Cornmeal Upside Down Cake fits the bill.

Upside side down cake can be tricky. There is a moment of truth when you hope, hope, hope that the fruit will dislodge from the pan.

On my first try, every piece of fruit stuck in the pan. It was lovely, but it was in the pan, not on the cake. Frustrated, I peeled as much as I could off and replaced in on the cake. It looked rumpled instead of well groomed.

My husband suggested we make an upside up cake. That would sure be simpler. But I worried the fruit would shrivel and dry while the cake baked. I suggested parchment on the bottom of the pan. He suggested two pieces of parchment. Brilliant!

One piece stays in the pan, the other stays on top of the fruit, on top (what was the bottom) of the cake. It is easily peeled off and every bit of fruit stays neatly in its proper place.

This tip, my friend, is worth the price of admission. Which of course is free. Still, it is a lifesaver. You can use this technique with all kinds of upside down cake. Apple gingerbread, cherry almond, cranberry orange, pear walnut, whatever you like.

As a bonus, this cornmeal cake uses inexpensive ingredients, easily found in the regular grocery store.

Oh, and a bit of xanthan. You need to have that in your pantry anyway if you do any gluten free baking. It is not cheap to buy, but it is cheap to use. A little goes a long, long way.

This sunny cake has corn flour, not cornstarch. You can substitute masa harina with equal success. Cornmeal gives it a rustic feel and a bit of crunch. It is tender, but not crumbly. And not too sweet. You can increase the sugar if you prefer your treats quite sweet.

It also works as a gluten free, dairy free dessert. Apple juice works great and adds a bit more sweetness. Or use milk if you prefer it.

Nectarine and Red Plum Cornmeal Upside Down Cake

Make this cake while dinner cooks and enjoy it warm for dessert.

serves 12 metric measures
1-1/2 cups corn flour or masa harina     275 grams
1/2 cup cornmeal                              90 grams
2/3 cup sugar, divided use 150 grams
2 tsp baking powder 6 grams
1 tsp salt 6 grams
1/2 tsp xanthan 2 grams
2 eggs 100 grams
1-1/4 cups apple juice or milk 300 ml
1/2 cup oil 120 ml
2 firm nectarines 375 grams
1 firm red plum 50 grams
1 tablespoon of lemon juice 15 ml

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend corn flour, cornmeal, ½ cup of sugar (115 grams), baking powder, salt, and xanthan.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, apple juice or milk, and oil.

Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until all the lumps disappear. Set aside.

Put a 9” cake pan on a piece of parchment and trace a pencil around the bottom. Cut inside the line so the parchment just fits inside the bottom of the pan. Repeat so you have two pieces. Lay them both on the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, slice the nectarines and plums. Drizzle with the lemon juice and the remaining sugar. Artfully arrange the fruit on top of the parchment. Or put it in a jumble if you like it really rustic.

Pour the batter over the fruit and level with a knife.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

Inserting a cake tester or thin knife into the cake is not a reliable way to see if this cake is done. Uncooked batter may not cling to them. The cake is done when it is a bit golden on the top and there are small cracks in the middle as well as around the edges.

I have given a pretty wide range of cooking times. Since we cook many homes, I know many ovens do not reach the temperature on the dial. Some are hotter, some are cooler. Check the cake at 45 minutes and let it go longer if needed. After you make this once or twice, you will have a better feel for how long it takes in your oven.

Allow the cake to stand for 5 to 10 minutes in the pan. Put a platter over the top of the pan and turn the whole assemblage  upside down. Never fear, it will come out intact!! With all the fruit in its place, on the cake. That is enough to make anyone smile. 🙂

Simply peel off the parchment paper and serve.

What is your families favorite kind of upside down cake?

11/24/2009 Would you take an upside down cake to a party? I think this one would be a beautiful holiday addition with cranberries in the center. So I submitted it to The Gluten Free Homemaker’s weekly event called, “What Can I Eat that is Gluten Free?”   This week’s theme is, you guessed it, party food. There are sure to be many tasty dishes you’ll like.

Q is for Quinoa-Flake Fruit Crisp Topping

Pronounced keen-wa. It is a pseudocereal, which means the seeds are used like cereal grains, but the plant is not a true grass. You might not expect this, but quinoa is related to beets and spinach. Whole seeds, flakes and flour are eaten here. In some parts of the world, the greens are eaten also.

Quinoa is an ancient crop, considered sacred by the Incas. Christian Spanish conquistadors did not like that and banned quinoa. It has been a slow road back to popularity. And we can thank the gluten free diet for increased interest in delicious, nutritious quinoa.

 

quinoa-flower photo by net_efekt

Sopanins

Quinoa seeds have a natural coating called sopanins that taste soapy and bitter. It is a natural defense system that makes the seed distasteful to birds. They will not eat the crop in the field before it sprouts.

We do not like the taste of sopanins either and used to have to rinse the seeds with three changes of water. You could see the soapy bubbles disappear with each rinsing. But now, most commercially available quinoa is already rinsed for you. Modern day quinoa might qualify as convenience food!

Nutrition

Quinoa has more protein than any other grain, and it is complete protein.

The World’s Healthiest Foods notes: because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.  

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quinoa-flour-flakes-and-seeds photo by vsimon

Seeds, Flakes and Flour

My regular grocery store stocks quinoa seeds, flakes, and flour. I use all of them. The seeds are my favorite though. The tiny circular seeds cook to a fluffy texture and pleasant mild flavor. I love the seeds for hot breakfast cereal, warm pilafs and cold salads. I will be posting some of these recipes in the future.

Quinoa seeds cook in only 15 minutes, much quicker than whole grain rice. You can use it in place of rice in many dishes. Quinoa comes in white and natural red colors. I have only used the white, which seems a more versatile color to me.

The flakes are often used for hot cereal. Some describe the flavor and texture as mild and smooth. Think baby’s first food, like pablum. Some, my husband, call it mushy. He prefers the texture of cooked oatmeal.

The flakes really shine in fruit crisp toppings. See the recipe below.

I use the flour in breads and other baked goods. I do find the flour strong tasting. If it is a very large percentage of the flour in the dish, it can taste a bit soapy. Or like a lingering flavor of too much baking soda. So I use it when I am adding other flavorful ingredients.

quinoaflakecrisp

rhubarb-cherry-crisp-with-quinoa-flake-topping photo by vsimon

Summer Fruit Crisp

A summer fruit crisp is a tasty way to get acquainted with quinoa flakes. I use the topping for any number of fruits, singly and in combination.

Today we make rhubarb cherry crisp. You could just as easily use blueberries, peaches or apples. Use less sugar in the filling with sweeter fruit.

You can also use pretty much any whole grain gluten free flour you like.  But do not use soy flour, you will ruin the taste of perfectly good fruit.

You can bake the crisp in a medium pan, or use ramekins for individual servings. And the crisp freezes well. Make a lot and have some later in the week, or much later in the winter. I like to use pyrex containers with lids. The bottom is oven safe and the lid works great in the freezer. They are easy to stack too.

Rhubarb and Cherry Crisp

Serves 6

 

7/8 c sugar, divided

½ cup quinoa flakes

½ cup sorghum flour

½ cup nuts

¼ cup oil

6 cups total chopped rhubarb and tart cherries, in any combination

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix ½ cup sugar, quinoa flakes, sorghum flour, nuts and oil.

Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 inch oven safe glass or ceramic pan. Or six individual ramekins. Put in the fruit, and sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Crumble the topping over the fruit.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is toasty. Cool a bit before devouring, or you will burn your mouth. 🙂

Do you like quinoa as much as I do? What do you do with it?

Added 6-14-09 This rhubarb was the last of the season from our garden. I am happily submitting this post and recipe to Grow Your Own recipe roundup using our home grown produce. Hosted this time by Zora of gardenopolis.