Amaranth is rich in history as it is in proteins. This new alternative grain is currently being applauded as a “Supergrain" due to the fact that it is high in protein and has a more complex multiplicity of amino acids than any other grain currently out in the market. This so-called "new" grain is by no means just starting out--it has been around for thousands of years.
Amaranth was first cultivated by cave dwellers as early as 4000 B.C. The Aztecs used it their religious ceremonies. The seed were ground to a paste that then mixed with honey to create their religious figures. It wasn’t until Cortez had invaded in 1519, that he ordered this grain to be destroyed and for anyone found cultivating this crop to have their hands cut off. He did this because as a devote Christian, he had suspected that the amaranth and honey figurines were also mixed with human blood and this was not only unacceptable but a mockery of the Communion sacrament.
Despite these harsh circumstances, amaranth is known for its longevity. The name originates from the Greek, meaning “not withering,” or more literally, “immortal.” Other grain kernels will not sprout, in most instances, past a decade but Amaranth can sprout indefinitely. This small grain is only larger than a poppy seed but it provides a high amount of protein. Amaranth is high in fiber, rich in iron and contains 16 percent protein.
Amaranth can be bought as a whole seed or as flour, and the flour can be mixed with high-gluten flours to make breads and other baked goods. Whole grain amaranth can be used as porridge and tastes somewhat sweet. The grains can be lightly toasted and used as a salad topper or with noodles. The many variations of how Amaranth can be used is just being rediscovered and it openly invites anyone to experiment with its many and “immortal” uses.
Mexico pops their amaranth and then mixes it in a sugar solution. Peru chooses to gather the leaves and either boil or fry them as vegetables would be used. Amaranth tends to have a mild nutty, sweet, malt-like flavor but the leaves of the amaranth plant have a spinach like taste.
Amaranth must be cooked before it is eaten. Boil it for at least 20 minutes in its whole seed form for a morning breakfast cereal. Or try popping it like you would pop popcorn.
From my time in the south, I will share my amaranth grits recipe with you:
1 cup amaranth
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock or water
Coarse salt to taste
1. Combine 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 to 25 minutes.
2. Stir 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 to taste.
With all its uses, it is obvious why amaranth has survived the test of time and has proven itself time and time again. Ancient cultures saw its potential, and hopefully this and future generations will not forget again.
Photos provided by www.all-creatures.org, www.sailusfood.com and www.vurv.cz.