Amaranth, a staple food in the diets of pre-Columbian Aztecs, was believed to have supernatural powers and was used in religious ceremonies. Spanish conquistadors outlawed the grain in an attempt to squash Aztec religious practices, and the grain fell into obscurity for many hundreds of years. Its cultivation continued in a few remote areas of the Andes and Mexico, and thus potentially saved this amazing food from extinction. It has been described as "mystical grains of the Aztecs," "super grain of the Aztecs," and the "golden grain of the Gods.
A relative of ’pigweed’ or the wild plant known as ’lambs-quarters’, amaranth is not a true grain but a seed, but is easily substituted for grains in many applications. Its flavour is mild, sweet, nutty and lends itself well to a variety of cooking applications. Amaranth can be cooked like a hot cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn or sprouted. This seed can also be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fries, soups and stews, or as a thickening agent. Amaranth has a sticky texture that contrasts with the texture of other grains.
Amaranth is gluten free and very rich in nutrients. Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids not typically found in grains. It is three times higher in fibre than wheat, contains iron and is a source of calcium.
Cooked amaranth is highly digestible making it an ideal first food for babies. Its also great for children and those recovering from illness.
TO COOK- Add 1 cup Amaranth to 2 1/2 boiling liquid (water, stock or juice). Use up to 3 cups liquid if preparing as a breakfast cereal Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Care must be taken not to overcook as it can become mushy.
POPPED AMARANTH- The grains can be toasted as you would sesame or poppy seeds; they pop and puff like popcorn (although much smaller of course). Toast just a tablespoonful of the seeds at a time in a heavy, dry skillet, tossing and stirring them over high heat for a few seconds until they pop. One tablespoon will produce about 1/4 cup of popped amaranth.
Posted on: March 11th, 2008