Amaranth is used in various
cultures in some very interesting ways. In Mexico it is popped and mixed with
a sugar solution to make a confection called "alegria" (happiness),
and milled and roasted amaranth seed is used to create a traditional Mexican drink
use fermented amaranth seed to make "chicha" or beer. In the Cusco area
the flowers are used to treat toothache and fevers and as a food colorant for
maize and quinoa. During the carnival festival women dancers often use the red
amaranth flower as rouge, painting their cheeks, then dancing while carrying bundles
of amaranth on their backs as they would a baby.
both Mexico and Peru the amaranth leaves are gathered then used as a vegetable
either boiled or fried. In India amaranth is known as "rajeera" (the
King’s grain) and is popped then used in confections called "laddoos,"
which are similar to Mexican "alegria."
Nepal, amaranth seeds are eaten as gruel called "sattoo" or milled into
flour to make chappatis. In Ecuador, the flowers are boiled then the colored boiling
water is added to "aquardeinte" rum to create a drink that "purifies
the blood," and is also reputed to help regulate the menstrual cycle.
1975 amaranth has been gaining support in the U.S. and is now grown in Colorado,
Illinois, Nebraska, and other states, but is still not a mainstream food. It is
found in many natural food stores and the flour is often used in baked goods.
name amaranth hails from the Greek for "never-fading flower." The plant
is an annual herb, not a "true" grain and is a relative of pigweed,
a common wild plant also known as lamb’s-quarters, as well as the garden plant
we know as Cockscomb. There are approximately 60 species of amaranth and there
is no definite distinction between amaranth grown for the leaf (vegetable), and
the seed (grain).
is a bushy plant that grows 5 to 7 feet, with broad leaves and a showy flower
head of small, red or magenta, clover like flowers which are profuse, and constitute
the plants exquisite, feathery plumes. The seed heads resemble corn tassels, but
are somewhat bushier. They are quite striking as well. The seeds are tiny (1/32"),
lens shaped, and are a golden to creamy tan color, sprinkled with some occasional
dark colored seeds.
plant is capable of producing 40,000 to 60,000 seeds. The leaves of ornamental
varieties, such as Joseph’s Coat resemble the coleus plant and are quite striking.
Their coloring can range from deep red, purple-red, orange, pink, green, to white.
The sight of a full-grown amaranth field with its vividly colored leaves, stems
and flower or seed heads is an amazingly beautiful sight that evokes much emotion.
Aside from amaranth
being such an attractive plant it is extremely adaptable to adverse growing conditions.
It resists heat and drought, has no major disease problems, and is among the easiest
of plants to grow. Simply scratching the soil, throwing down some seeds, and watering
will reward you with some of these lovely plants.
can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or
toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or
to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent.
flour is used in making pastas and baked goods. It must be mixed with other flours
for baking yeast breads, as it contains no gluten. One part amaranth flour to
3-4 parts wheat or other grain flours may be used. In the preparation of flatbreads,
pancakes and pastas, 100% amaranth flour can be used. Sprouting the seeds will
increase the level of some of the nutrients and the sprouts can be used on sandwiches
and in salads, or just to munch on.
cook amaranth boil 1 cup seeds in 2-1/2 cups liquid such as water or half water
and half stock or apple juice until seeds are tender, about 18 to 20 minutes.
Adding some fresh herbs or gingerroot to the cooking liquid can add interesting
flavors or mix with beans for a main dish. For a breakfast cereal increase the
cooking liquid to 3 cups and sweeten with Stevia, honey or brown rice syrup and
add raisins, dried fruit, allspice and some nuts.
has a "sticky" texture that contrasts with the fluffier texture of most
grains and care should be taken not to overcook it as it can become "gummy."
Amaranth flavor is mild, sweet, nutty, and malt like, with a variance in flavor
according to the variety being used.
keeps best if stored in a tightly sealed container, such as a glass jar, in the
refrigerator. This will protect the fatty acids it contains from becoming rancid.
The seeds should be used within 3 to 6 months.
leaves of the amaranth plant taste much like spinach and are used in the same
manner that spinach is used. They are best if consumed when the plant is young
seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains respectable amounts of lysine and
methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains.
It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins
A and C.
fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five
times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth
in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as
high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.
also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering
activity in humans. Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible and because of this ease
of digestion, it has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness
or ending a fasting period. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, which is found mostly
within the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and is high in linoleic
acid, which is important in human nutrition.
amaranth seeds have a unique quality in that the nutrients are concentrated in
a natural "nutrient ring" that surrounds the center, which is the starch
section. For this reason the nutrients are protected during processing. The amaranth
leaf is nutritious as well containing higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels
something new, different, and highly nutritious in your diet, try amaranth and
have some fun experimenting and discovering your favorite ways to use it. If you
would like to learn more about whole grains and their uses, you may wish to try
one of these books. They are available at Amazon and can be purchased through
Health and Beyond Online by simply clicking on the title.
Whole Grain Cookbook, Aveline Kushi
American Waves of Grain: How to Buy, Store, and Cook Every Imaginable Grain,
Grains: Creating Main Dishes With Whole Grains, Joanne Saltzman
with Spinach Tomato Mushroom Sauce
cup amaranth seed
2-12 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch spinach
(or young amaranth leaves if available)
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and coarsely
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons basil
1 clove of garlic minced
1 Tablespoon onion, minced
and pepper to taste (or use a salt substitute)
amaranth to boiling water, bring back to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for
amaranth is cooking, stem and wash spinach, then simmer until tender. Dip tomatoes
into boiling water to loosen skin, then peel and chop. Heat oil in a skillet over
medium heat and add garlic an onion. Sauté approximately 2 minutes. Add
tomato, mushrooms, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and 1 Tablespoon of water. Drain
and chop spinach and add to tomato mixture. Cook an addition 10 – 15 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Lightly mash tomato as it is cooking.
the sauce into the amaranth or spoon it on top.
1 cup amaranth
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups water or vegetable stock
Sea salt or soy sauce to taste
Garnish: 2 plum tomatoes
the amaranth, garlic, onion, and stock in a 2-quart saucepan. Boil; reduce heat
and simmer covered until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
well. If the mixture is too thin or the amaranth not quite tender (it should be
crunchy, but not gritty hard), boil gently while stirring constantly until thickened,
about 30 seconds. Add salt or soy sauce to taste.
Stir in a few
drops of hot sauce, if desired, and garnish with chopped tomatoes.