Perennial amaranthus?!? O_o

I found out about this by pure chance

This species is called amaranthus deflexus (due to its creeping / recumbent habit) and is actually a short lived perennial, surviving the winter through its rhizome.

This is quite unexpected, well... I've noticed this plant before, but due to its small seeds size, its scarce productivity and small size I never considered it really worth investigating. It's not even listed on pfaf.org.
This rhizome thing, however, is most interesting.

Would it be possible to cross it with other amaranths? If the resulting hybrid is able to grow a rhizome and be more productive, then it will be worth giving it a try!

For now, I've collected some seeds.. I read they are dormant, will sow them next year. If I manage to dig a small plant from a roadside, however, I'll be more than happy to try and overwinter it! :D


To say this was ttally unexpected would be a blatant lie, so let's say I expected this to happen :p

One thing I notices from my amaranthus caudatus tests last is that when the seed heads are forming the plants tend to become recumbent so they should be supported.
However I hoped I could avoid additional work by growing them at a high enough density.
Amaranthus caudatus plants sown this spring in the crowded plot mantained a thin but robust stem and did perfectly fine.
The second crop sown at the beginning of august on the other hand grew exceptionally fast and with thick watery stems.. and then a stom with strong winds cames and here's the outcome:

about 50% of the plants had been knocked down by the strong winds. The soil softened by by the rain didn't help at all. This soil is exceptionally fertile, so it encouraged excessive plant growth.. the plant outgrew beyond what their roots could sustain and high fertility actually turned out to be a very bad thing!

I actually expected it to be much worse than this.. and I also managed, thanks to poles and ropes, to pull back up half of the fallen plants thus reducing the damage to ~25%.

Seeing this disaster, my conclusions are as follows: crowding only works partially, the greatest advantage is that it minimizes weed growth.
Some kind of support is still needed, i.e. rows of poles spaced about 1m apart with strings at a height of about 70cm ~ 1m.
If the soil is moderately fertile, crowding is ok, otherwise sow in rows.

Now then, the plants are still flowering. I hope the seeds will ripen before the first frost comes!

If they manage to produce, drying the seeds will be a real problem :p


digitaria sanguinalis: the (nearly) last immortal

See this?

this is a specimen of Digitaria Sanguinalis I uprooted almost one month ago. I've spent countless hours trying to eradicate this species and setaria viridis from my plots and this particular one was looking dried beyond any hope of recovery.

All it took was a day of rain, then the resurrection strategy of digitaria kicked in: high speed total regeneration at each node!
Wherever a node was touching the ground it developed roots too.

This goes beyond amazing, this plant really has been forged under the unforgiving anvil of survival!!
I felt the urge to look it up over pfaf.org and find more.
To my surprise I found it is still cultivated in eastern europe for human consumption and produces large amounts of grain for a wild species. Moreover, the flour made from its seeds is white, nutritious and keeps very well.
As for its drought resistance and ability to survive the worsts conditions while still reliably delivering grain, the picture above says it all.

I decided it was time to gather some seed, first of all let's say they taste good even uncooked.

It seems collecting grain from this grass is pretty simple, this is what I got within 2 minutes of picking the best plants:

Of course I plan to pick much more and sow a nice big plot for next year.
I absolutely need to evaluate the yield from this grass since it can be a fine source of gluten, useful for making bread and cakes.

It has disproportionately large roots which allow it to compete against other grasses faster and more efficiently, it is a C4 plant and is allelopathic.
Its ability to self sow through the winter and resist drought is fundamental, that's why I'm interested in it even if it's an annual!


Chenopodium pallidicaule trials

So I finally managed to grab a few chenopodium pallidicaule seeds, there we go:

These seeds look awfully like chenopodium album seeds, so why bother with them?
Because they are said to be extremely nutritious? Like if I mind, then so is C. Album.
Because they are easy to grow and tend to self sow? Bah, C. Album is a full weed too.
Then why?
Well, this pallidicaule should have some remarkable properties on the frost resistance side: it should be able to stand -3C frosts while flowering and can generally survive brief frosts down to -8C or even -10C and seeds mature at 15C.
Given these properties, sowing at the beginning of february might be feasible.

On the hot side, 25-28C is said to be the maximum temperature and this contitutes a strong limitation.
Also, C. pallidicaule seems to require strong light, that's another limitation.

The seeds should have a dormancy of a few weeks and this should prevent them from germinating like quinoa, directly on the plant.

 All of this is practically non-verified, I need to check if it's true.

Last year I've witnessed C. Album survive deep frosts and a snow cover, I need to compare its behaviour with C. Pallidicaule.

 Today I'm sowing a first batch of seeds in order to multiply what I've got.

Edit: I haven't sown it yet. Still too hot, it might compromise the seedlings. I think I'll sow this sunday.


I find your lack of dormancy disturbing

Disaster and quinoa.

Yes, they go along well.

I discovered 12-24 hours of intermittent rain are more than enough to germinate mature quinoa seeds directly on the plant. Actually problems rose on one plant so far, but I have reason to believe it will get worse.
I understand it never rains in Bolivia's harvesting season, otherwise their quinoa crops would be gone withing half a day.

It really seems, like if I needed further confirmations, that quinoa will never do well out of its native climate.
The sad thing is I can't afford to entrust my life on weather forecasts or harvest a whole plot of quinoa right before it rains. I think the seeds I saved are the seeds I'll resow next year and the long season strains may go to hell if they won't survive this moist period.
Dear quinoa, I find your lack of seed dormancy disturbing.

Why this sudden turn of events?
Mostly because I now possess two very important pieces of information:

a) I've found chenopodium album's seed aminoacid composition

b) I've managed to find chenopodium pallidicaule seeds and a somewhat detailed description of its behaviour.

given these, I think I could probably discard quinoa. More to follow.

extractable oil contents of some wild species seeds

Speaking of oil, oils come pretty handy in times of servicing engines, generators and other machines.
Unfortunately most commercially availables oils either come from tropical plants unsuitable for temperate mid to high latitude zones, or the plants require too much energy and time to be of any use to me.

There are quite a lot of plants in the wild which can be useful for this purpose and even yield oil good for cooking (and lighting!), here are the results of some preliminary research:

name: oil content % / protein content %

chenopodium album: ~8.5-9% / ~16-17%
setaria viridis: ~6-7% / ~15%
sinapis arvensis: ~35-38% / ~`24%
amaranthus spp: ~4-8% / ~15%

It seems wild cruciferae are the most promising species, C. album is on the low end and lepidium sativum stands at an intermediate place (~22% oil).

From this same reasearch, I've found a pretty good analysis of the aminoacid contents of chenopodium album and amaranthus retroflexus: this data, once properly formatted will be the subject of a dedicated post!

Garden cress galore!

My garden cress, aka lepidium sativum has lived up to my expectations and beyond.

What is more important, garden cress wasn't affected at all by pests.

This is the yield of ~3m^2 of cress, more than a Kg of seeds:

Recovery of seeds is easy and pretty efficient: step over the plants with thick socks, remove the stalks and use a sieve to separate seeds from most chaff. The rest can be blown away by winnowing.

They are pretty nutritious, but their greatest value I think lies in the oil content, up to 22% in weight. The oil composition in term of fatty acids is mostly oleic acid (~30.6%) and linolenic acid (~29.3%), erucic acid is present and can be used for lighting and cooking. Gamma and delta tocopherols are present at ~1422ppm and ~356ppm respectively (relatively high concentrations).

Another source (http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=22574870) shows this:

alpha linolenic acid 34%
oleic acid ~22%
linoleic acid ~11.8%
eicosanoic acid ~12%
palmitic acid ~10%
erucic acid acid ~4.4%
arachidic acid ~3.4%
stearic acid ~2.9%

The oil is described as being fairly stable and with a high alpha linolenic acid content.

Sounds good. After the oil has been extracted you are left with starches, proteins and a fine mustard flavour.
Of course I don't plan to extract the oil only for food and lighting, its main purpose is lubrication of machines and engines.

On a side note, just pressing the seeds is not enough, the seed actually has to be crushed to efficiently extract the oil.

These seeds, by the way, will be sown again next year on a larger scale;
by july they will be ready.