Pig Weed a.k.a. Amaranth


Amaranth

The tall deep red colored plant in this photo is one of several varieties of amaranth. It tastes a bit like spinach. Also visible in the forground is a green variety. This is commonly known as pig weed.

Further in the back is lambsquarter. These are some of the many forages that grow in our pastures.

People tend to think of pasture and hay as being a mono-culture of grass. While one could do it that way, we don’t. Rather our pastures are a savannah style, a mix of trees, brush and open areas with ground forages. Some of those forages are grass. Others are legumes such as clovers, alfalfa, lupins, trefoil and other nitrogen capturing plants. We also have various brassicas, millets, amaranth, chicory and other plants.

In the particular patch shown in the photo there is something else that isn’t out in most of our pastures but rather is a resident of our summer gardens which double as our winter paddocks. Looking closely you may spy the leaf and flower of a pumpkin plant.

All of these are things that the pigs love and thrive on. Variety is the spice of life.

Outdoors: 20°F/2°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/60°F

Daily Spark: Failure of one person or even 1,000 people to succeed is not proof of impossibility.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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15 Responses to Pig Weed a.k.a. Amaranth

  1. DB says:

    Lambsquarter and Pig Weed are forages for our pigs. My pigs love them as well. In other locations such as my wheat, corn, and proso millet fields, they are weeds. Any plant where it is not wanted or where it interferes with the natural ecosystem is a weed.

  2. am in the pm says:

    The summer buffet .

  3. Jonathan van Dyk says:

    Walter,
    I have had a great batch of piglets a few days ago.
    Took your green house hut idea.
    Worked splendidly.
    The other 2 sows farrowed in deep hay in barn.
    Then we checked and sow in hut had 8 babies nursing and playing around on top of her and the boar you sold us last fall. He is robust and bred them within a few days of his arrival. All 3 farrowed from 2pm -12am.
    The hut seems the best for heat loss and somehow they don’t seem to be crushed yet in that tight space. He continues to cuddle in there often.
    Thanks for your help.
    Jon

  4. DrFood says:

    Lambsquarters are delicious in omelets. Once I discovered this, I stopped messing with spinach. The Lambsquarters came up in abundance in my gardens in Wisconsin, and I would harvest large quantities, blanch and freeze them to have in omelets all year long.

  5. Cary Howe says:

    Another one to consider is Strawberry Spinach. It was cultivated in Europe during the middle ages but was largely forgotten until recently. It’s native to America and Europe and it self seeds so the pigs should spread it. The leaves are eaten as a salad and the berries are like raspberries and are edible. It should make a great forage plant. Seed Savers have it in bulk. 10,000 seeds run $12.50 or 50,000 for $52.50.

    http://www.seedsavers.org/onlinestore/spinach/Spinach-Strawberry.html

    Another thing to check out is using clay balls to spread seed. Youtube has a bunch of videos about the process and the Japanese farmer that came up with the technique. He didn’t believe in traditional farming and mixed various seeds together and used clays balls as an easy way to spread them. The American version is to use a mix of clay and mulch. Seems like a perfect method for introducing new plants into fields that are already established. There are some great videos of people using cement mixers to make the clay balls. They just slowly spray water in as it’s tumbling and the seeds clump together and form balls like snow rolling downhill. It’s a lot faster than hand rolling them but you can have the kids hand roll them as a winter project. Here’s a link to some videos. There’s a ton of stuff if you google his name, Masanobu Fukuoka.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Masanobu+Fukuoka

    • Interesting technique. Clay balls is a little bit like feeding seed to animals, very small seeds pass through and get spread in their manure. I’ve heard of people doing that. I haven’t tried it as I enjoy broadcasting the seed.

      • Cary Howe says:

        One of the reasons is to keep animals from eating the seeds before they get a chance to germinate. The clay protects the seeds until there’s a good rain. You’re still broadcasting seed just with his technique you are clumping several kinds of seeds together so you’d mix nitrogen fixing plant seeds with ones that need nitrogen. The farms I’ve seen done this way tend to look like the garden of eden with much of it edible. What’s interesting for farming is with his technique he used no fertilizer of any form and no additional water. His rice fields were as productive as his neighbors and he did everything by hand while the neighbors flooded the fields and used chemicals and fertilizers. The land fertility increased on his fields while the neighbors was slowly eroding. I read a while back the reason for the dust bowl was plowing. The original Great Plains had dense grass that was rooted down 15′. Even after several years of drought if you dug a hole the soil was moist because the dense grass prevented evaporation. His approach embraces this idea of not disturbing the soil. Fukuoka would alternate rice in the summer and barley in the winter in the same fields but also planted nitrogen fixing plants like clover. I saw a video of farmers in India using a similar approach where they planted red velvet beans then after the bean harvest sowed in rice seed. They had an interesting technique where they cut the roots of the red velvet beans then rolled it up as they went like a carpet. After they were done they rolled it back out and let it decay as mulch. It’s less labor to run a brush cutter over the red velvet beans but in India the labor is cheaper than the hardware so it was an interesting approach. I strongly recommend reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s book or watching some of the videos. It really did make me rethink growing food. I already tend to be a rebel and don’t believe in “correct spacing” and I mix things like beans and tomatoes. My gardens look like jungles but I get a lot of food out of small spaces and I don’t weed. He just takes things a couple of steps further.

  6. traye says:

    I can’t wait until I can get my fields to look similar to that, they are currently devoid of nutrients and organic material. I talked to the farmer who leased them be said the owner would not allow him to do the things necessary to keep good soil health because it would come off the payments. I figure it will take two seasons to get it healthy. Lucky I can get tons of leaves and other organic from twenty three acres of trees and I’ve been getting about a yard of horse poo for my manure compost pile each week. The pigs are helping by bringing nutrients from the forest and putting that on and in the soil there.

  7. Nate says:

    This is beautiful, in it’s own way. I’ve never tasted it though. I’ll have to put that on my bucket list.

  8. justin says:

    I’m sure having plenty of foliage helps the livestock stay cool if it gets hot out too.

  9. evan taylor says:

    http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/php/plants.php?action=display&ispecies=swine

    Cornell lists Lambsquarters and Pigweed as nitrate accumulators / poisonous to pigs. Why would they do this, is this false, I know both are very nutritious.

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