Giving Thanks for Gluten Free Grains in the Garden

Do you know anyone else who has grown any gluten free grains in their backyard garden? No? Neither do we.

That didn’t stop us. We planted amaranth, sorghum, teff, and flax this year. Just as in the rest of the garden, there were some successes and some we will not repeat.

Even though we will not plant most of these next year, we enjoyed trying them. We know our grains are organic. We know they are not contaminated with wheat. We built up our internal supply of vitamin D. 😉 Our pantry is full. We have a small plot of fertile land. These are all good things. Things we are very thankful for.

We encourage you to grow a garden, or to grow something next year. Please share with us what you grow. It is such a rewarding experience, and you will have much to be thankful for too.

I cook with all of these grains and seeds, and have posted before with recipes. I’ll add a garden review here, and you can click on links for previous posts.

amaranth flower

amaranth flower photo by vsimon


Amaranth is the clear winner here. From just a small packet, it produced nearly 2 pounds of seeds, harvested over 2 months. We cook the seeds for hot breakfast cereal. And pop them for a tiny version of popcorn.

Early in the season, we also harvested the leaves and stems. Steamed tender young stems taste just like asparagus! Later in the year the leaves and stems get too tough to eat.

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young amaranth leaves and stems photo by lsimon

Amaranth is also worthy of planting in the flower garden. Ours got 8 feet tall, with striking flowers.


I don’t really consider flax a gluten free grain. It turned out to be the same as flax I had grown in the flower garden. It has airy leaves, with pretty little sky blue flowers. The thought of harvesting it hadn’t occurred to me before.

Vince ordered it this year from Bountiful Gardens, where it was listed with grains. And I often add ground flax seed in gluten free baking. So he thinks of it as a gluten free grain.

flax plant with seed heads

flax gone to seed photo by vsimon

We didn’t get much of a harvest, only 3 oz. A ground squirrel was well fed though, he ate more than we did. It is far easier to buy flax seed in the store. And so we do.

White Seeded Popping Sorghum

We love sorghum, flour and syrup. The plant looks just like corn stalks with an exploded ear of corn at the top.


sorghum plant photo by vsimon

In our cold wet spring, it germinated very poorly. But once it took hold, it was fun to watch. We harvested over 4 pounds of seeds.

I won’t be making flour out of it. I don’t have the equipment and this really is not enough. We aren’t boiling down the stems for syrup either. That is just too hard core for me.

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sorghum seeds, raw and cooked photo by vsimon

We have cooked the seeds in a slow cooker. It tastes just like corn, and smells just like cooked corn. The seeds are smaller, and creamy white.

It will be pleasant to wake up to a steamy, fragrant bowl of sorghum seeds for breakfast on a wintery morning.

They could be used for a grain side dish too. Like rice, or quinoa.

We tried popping them, without success, and despite the name. We tried several times, and tried several methods.

They did get toasty tasty though. I thought this could be a crunchy addition to trail mix. And we have a lot of seeds to use.

Still, no need to repeat these. We will buy our sorghum flour and syrup in the store next year. And we can live without the seeds.


The teff was sad. The teff grew well enough. It is short, only 3 feet tall. The leaves are soft and arching.

But the seeds are so tiny I don’t know how they are harvested. They just disappear. There are seeds in this picture. Really, there are. They are hard to see even up close.

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teff plant with seeds photo by vsimon

We threshed the teff and got a whopping 1.2 ounces (1/4 cup) seed. And it is nearly impossible to clean the chaff away. If you blow on it, it goes, and so does the seed.

We will be buying teff seeds and flour in the store too.

Possibilities for next year

Maybe buckwheat, millet, and quinoa. We will keep you posted.

Update: Read Linda’s guest post on Mother Earth News.

Giving Thanks for our Garden Harvest

Our larder is full. OK, that was fun to say, but we don’t really have one.

But our pantry and freezers are full. With local produce. Really local produce, from our backyard garden.

Those of us who grow our own truly appreciate our abundance. We feel secure knowing we have more than enough food to sustain us through the winter.

Giving Thanks for a successful harvest is the whole point of the first Thanksgiving. The natives knew a thing or two about what grew.

Gardening is all about respecting “place”. What is your place like? What kind of soil you have? And how much rain, sun, and warmth?

I know it is not practical for everyone to grow your own. Still, I encourage everyone with a small plot of land, or even a pot in a spot of sunshine to grow something. You can witness the earth’s daily spin, and the yearly rotation around the sun. Majesty in detail, in your own backyard!

We have lots of gardening experience. I invite you to ask questions and we will help as much as we can.

Our Wisconsin garden is in zone 5, on the Rock Prairie. It is home to some of the best soil in the whole world. And plenty of water. Most things grow really well here.

This year we expanded our garden to 25×50 feet. Most of our veggies were in the official garden. But our eyes are always bigger than our plot. We buy seeds and plants and have to figure out where to put them. So a few things were planted in the flower borders.

This week I’ll review our 2009 garden choices, and vote yea or nay to a repeat performance. Some things I have already posted about, check the link for more info.

There is a lot to talk about. Get yourself a cup of tea and let’s go alphabetically.

fireside apples

fireside apples photo by vsimon

ApplesFireside. Yea. And it is a tree, so it it coming back next year without any intervention on our part.

Basil-sweet Italian. Yea, an annual repeat.

Beansyea. We planted so many beans. We ate them nearly everyday for a month and a half. We probably froze enough for two years. We gave lots to the food pantry. And we harvested dry beans. I’ll post on those when we use them in the dead of winter.

This year we planted Coco Rubico, Foot Long, Italian Romano, Maxibel, Roma II, Scarlet Runners, pink flowered runners, and yellow bush fillet. That is a nice variety, we liked them all.

If you are new to gardening, start with beans. They are easy, successful, and popular.

green beans and beets

green beans and red beets photo by lsimon


Blackberries-so far, rapid growth and no fruit. We started these alongside our woods, which is probably too shady. The canes easily grew 12 feet in a year, and overwhelmed everything in their path.

We dug them out and put them in the yard, removing even more grass. They suffered a temporary setback, but took off again.

I mow off the tips with the lawnmower. I’ll give them two more years, tops. If they do not bear, they are outta here.

Blueberries– so far, these have been a disappointment. We have three shrubs planted in the landscape. They are three years old and have gotten eaten down to the ground by rabbits each winter.

This year they did get big enough to show beautiful red leaves in the fall. We are protecting them with wire and mulch to keep the bunnies at bay. And hope for at least a small crop next year. Maybe that is optimistic.


cabbage in situ photo by vsimon

Cabbageyea. We had a few 2-3” rainfalls this year and our cabbages exploded. So we needed to use them quick.

We made slaw and sauerkraut. I like slaw, but the sauerkraut was a new experience. Real, naturally fermented sauerkraut.

I can’t get past the layer of mold you need to remove to get to the kraut. 🙁

Cilantroyea. Cilantro goes to seed quickly. It is best to plant small amounts every two weeks to ensure a long harvest.

Chivesyea. It is lovely to chew on a chive stem every time you pass by the plant. It is a perennial, super easy to grow. You could whack it in half every spring and share with your friends.

We have it on the edge of the flower garden, and in a planter on the deck. I can easily cut off a bit and add a fresh bit of green to any dish.

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pickled produce photo by vsimon

Cucumberyea. Perhaps fewer plants though. Vince made lots of pickles, also freezer cucumber salad. I’ll post about those later. And we used a few fresh in salads.

Still, we had WAY to many. So I brought pounds and pounds of cucumbers to the local food pantry.

Currantsyea. It is a shrub that comes back on it’s own. We don’t get a big harvest and usually make currant jam, occasionally a pie.

Egg PlantLittle Fingers. I say yea, Vince says nay. Really, he’s happy to plant them, but won’t eat them.


fennel bulb photo by vsimon

Fennel– I say nay. Vince says yea. Only a few plants developed bulbs, and not just green airy tops. In fairness, they were squeezed in between pole beans, and could have used more sun.

Leeksyea. They are a tradition in our garden. Made into potato leek soup every fall.

Ground Cherriesyea and yea. What a find! We saw a plant at the nursery and made room for it. Ground cherries will be back next year for sure.

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ground cherry jam photo by vsimon

Mintyea. Chocolate mint. It is planted along the north side of the garage. No sun ever, and no water from us. I eat it occasionally. But mostly I like the way it smells when I cut the grass.

Muskmelon-Fast Break Hybrid. Yea? Nay? ??? We got 4 mini melons. They serve just one or two, very cute. With typical muskmelon flavor, color, and texture.

This wasn’t a good year to judge these. They were supposed to ripen in a short season, but it was the coldest summer on record here.

And the melons were planted with the potatoes. We thought the potatoes would be done earlier than they were, and they shaded the melon vines.

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cherry pick peppers to be canned photo by vsimon

Peppers– Cherry Pick, Hungarian Hot Carrot Pepper, Red Bell. Yea, to all three kinds. Cherry Pick are prolific, small, round, red, and sweet. Vince pickled most of them.

Hungarian Carrot peppers look just like little carrots. And they are HOT!!! There are not many on a plant, but a little goes a long way.

We have to wait to the very end of the growing season to harvest sweet Red Bells. And we only get a few. I love them fresh so much, I still make room for them every year.


parmesan roasted cranberry red potatoes photo by lsimon

PotatoesCranberry Red, Red Bliss, Swedish Peanut Fingerling. Nay, yea, and yea.

The Red Bliss were simply from potatoes sprouting in our cupboard. A good all around salad potato.

The Swedish Peanut Fingerlings were a treat. They are super yellow, yellower than Yukon Gold’s. We have been roasting and mashing them.

German Beer radish

German beer radishes photo by vsimon

Radishes-German Beer, Red Meat. Yea and ?? (crop failure). German Beer radishes are hot and horseradishy. A fun party in your mouth.

Raspberries-early and late reds. Yea, yea, yea, and yea. We harvest fresh raspberries from late June to frost. Sometimes lots, sometimes just enough for breakfast.

We stared with just 6 bare canes, maybe 15 years ago. And our patch grows ever bigger. It is spreading into the neighbors, they welcome them. And we continually give away little plants.

Sageyea. I use fresh sage leaves in the fall. They are silvery green and a bit fuzzy. A perennial, pretty planted in our flower garden.

Thyme-I could go either way here. I use purchased dried thyme frequently in cooking. But my lemon thyme plant has grown into a dense mat, close to the ground. So it is difficult to cut clean stems. Does this show laziness? I do love the smell as I am working around the plant though.


black cherry tomatoes photo by vsimon

Tomatoes-Amish Paste, Black Cherry, Black Kim, Mortgage Lifter, Garden Peach, Pineapple, Roma, Rose de Berne. Mostly yea.

Tomatillonay. I love fresh tomatillos and buy green ones from the market often. But these were purple. An unattractive greenish, grayish purple. I have seen some photos online of beautiful purple tomatillos. Ours were not.

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purple tomatillos photo by vsimon

This is our second unsuccessful attempt at tomatillos. The first time, every single one had a small worm in it. That is off-putting. It makes you wonder how much pesticide is sprayed on these. The ones in the market are not marked organic.

TurnipNAY!!!! We had a tremendous crop. But I have not been able to prepare these any way that makes them edible. I love most root veggies, but these are toooo strongly flavored of mustard and horseradish.

I brought some of these to the food pantry, it almost seemed mean. I asked the staff to please give these as extras, not as the only veggie.

Yellow crookneck squash-nay. They are easy, you will get a lot. They also ripen fast and furious. I just don’t like them well enough to plant again.

Gluten free grains– amaranth, flax, sorghum, teff. We actually grew gluten free grains! We’ll tell you about them in Thursday’s post.

See what I mean by abundance? We are very thankful for the harvest and the joy gardening gives us.

Do you garden? Will you try something new next year?

Harvesting Amaranth Seed

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


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 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.