Amaranta comes from the Greek, amarantos meaning, “never-fading.” It captures both the philosophical and practical aspects of what we do on the farm: how permaculture guides us, how garlic grows below the snow-covered ground over one winter and flavors our food through the next, and how we hope this farm will keep us active and healthy.
The name also refers to a plant that inspires our work: amaranth.I (Liz) first learned about the plant on a family farm in Nepal in the early 90s. I saw it as a weed that got in the way of my newfound passion for growing food. With the zeal of a recent convert, I dug out every amaranth in sight. My Brahman mother-in-law, Ama, looked over my shoulder and nagged, “Eh, let those ludiko saag weeds grow a bit bigger before you pull them out. Then you can eat them like spinach.” I liked the Amaranth greens so well, I gave them a place of their own in the vegetable beds.
Amaranth represents the spirit of diversity — both biological and cultural — we like to foster in our garden and our lives. The genus Amaranthus includes at least 60 different species used around the world as grains, greens, ornamentals, dyes, and ritual offerings. It also includes some species considered weeds.
In our personal garden, we purposely grow several varieties of amaranth. Combining the spirit of Ama’s wisdom with permacultural principles, we let some of our amaranth drop seed in the garden every fall and sprout on their own in the spring. Then, we thin out some of the young plants for tasty greens (excellent, by the way, with our garlic). We’re also experimenting with using them as grains.
Following the wisdom of Ama and amaranth, we’ve become opportunistic in our eating habits. If the garden grows good spinach, we eat it. If not (well, even if it does), we also enjoy “never-fading” amaranth relatives (some might call them weeds): mountain orach, lamb’s quarters. We also harvest wild plants on our land: stinging nettles, morels, miner’s lettuce, desert parsley, elderberries, rose hips.
Finally, we love that our farm shares the same name as a character in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, One Hundred Years of Solitude — a cautionary tale of human folly, especially for those who are new to a place. The name reminds us to temper our grandiose plans with a good dose of humility. We are mortal, but the land and the many species that live here will go on. And while we hope our stewardship of this place has long-lasting results, we also recognize and try to avoid inadvertently leaving scars that might never fade.