Which ancient grain:
- is 15 to 18% protein?
- has five times the iron as wheat?
- contains three times the fiber as wheat?
- delivers twice the calcium as milk?
- is a great source of magnesium and manganese?
- is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid?
- contains both lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids usually missing from other grains?
This nutritional powerhouse is easy to prepare and can be substituted for other grains in just about any recipe. It is a gluten-free food, making it an easy choice for sufferers of celiac disease or wheat allergies to replace wheat, barley, and rye in grain-based recipes.
What is this amazing superfood?
Amaranth is actually an annual herb related to lamb’s quarters, not a grain. It grows like a weed (and is considered as such to many farmers and homeowners) and produces copious amounts of seeds and edible greens even in arid climates. The greens are prepared just like spinach, with the youngest leaves being the most desirable. Some varieties are grown in annual gardens just for their showy flower-heads.
The Incas prized amaranth as one of their staple foods, and it held a special significance in Aztec and Incan rituals. Today, the grain is grown throughout the world because of ease of harvest, high yields, and tolerance to adverse growing conditions.
Directions for preparing amaranth grain:
- 1 cup amaranth
- 3 cups of water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Bouillon or herbs (optional)
- Bring to a boil
- Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally
- For most savory dishes, cook only until the water is gone yet the grains are still separate
- For a breakfast porridge, add extra 1/2 cup water and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness
Try using half quinoa and half amaranth, cooked together. Replace the rice, wheat, or millet in recipes with amaranth, stir some into soup, or use as a base for a casserole. We like to make it as a sweet pudding for dessert (throw in some chocolate chips), and a hot porridge with cinnamon and raisins for the morning.
Amaranth is also available as flour, pasta, a puffed cereal, and as an ingredient in some energy bars. Ask for amaranth on your next trip to the co-op or natural foods store!
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Image: USDA Agricultural Research Service