Amaranth seeds contain unusually good quality protein for a plant source, similar to that of buckwheat and quinoa. It is also a good source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. 1/2 cup of amaranth contains 365 calories, 14 grams of protein and 9 grams of fibre.
Amaranth greens, a common leaf vegetable in many temperate regions are a very good source of vitamins A, B6, C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron and magnesium. 1 cup of cooked amaranth leaves contain just 28 calories and 0.2 grams of fat.
VarietiesOf the 60 or so species of this plant, not all varieties of amaranth are cultivated to be eaten. Certain varieties appear as weeds, while others are used for ornamental purposes and have vibrant red, purple, orange, pink, green or white leaves.
BuyingYou can purchase amaranth in most health food stores and some major grocery stores. Amaranth is available in a variety of forms, including the seed, flour and greens.
StoringSince warm, moist environments may cause the natural oils in amaranth to go rancid, the seed is best stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator. The seeds should be used within 3 to 6 months.
There are a wide variety of ways to enjoy amaranth, the most popular being boiling; however toasting is also common in some parts of the world.
Boiling: Amaranth seeds are cooked similarly to other grains. One cup of amaranth seeds are cooked in 2.5 cups liquid, such as water or vegetable stock, until seeds are tender, about 18 to 20 minutes. For a slightly thicker, porridge-like consistency, use a greater proportion of water (i.e. ratio of 1:3). Amaranth seeds have a stickier texture than most other grains, therefore extra care should be taken not to overcook it as it can become gummy.
Toasting: Heat amaranth in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Serve with milk and fresh blueberries as a healthy breakfast, or mix with a touch of honey for a sweet snack.
Amaranth is enjoyed in a variety of ways around the world. In Mexico, amaranth grains are toasted and mixed with honey or molasses to make a treat called alegria, while milled and roasted amaranth seed are used to make a traditional drink known as atole. In Nepal amaranth seeds are eaten in a thin-watery porridge known as sattoo, while Ecuadorians boil the flowers of the amaranth plant and add the vibrant coloured water to rum for a drink that is reputed to "clean the blood" and regulate the menstrual cycle.
Did You Know?
- In ancient Greece, amaranth was considered a sacred plant that was thought to have special healing powers. The plant, a symbol of immortality, was used to decorate images of gods and tombs.
- The flowers of the Hopi Red Dye amaranth plant were once used by Hopi Indians as the source of a deep red dye. This dye has since been replaced with the dye known as Red No. 2 in North America.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy:
- To make an amaranth porridge, cook amaranth in a ratio of 1:3 with water. Add sliced apples, chopped walnuts and a touch of cinnamon, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.
- Heat amaranth in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Serve with milk and fresh blueberries for a healthy breakfast.
- Add a boost of greenery to your sandwich by adding a handful of fresh amaranth sprouts.
- Combine young amaranth greens with fresh baby greens for a salad high in vitamins
- Steam 1 cup amaranth in 2 ½ cups vegetable stock for 18-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Add a few slices of fresh gingerroot or chopped fresh herbs to add some extra flavour. Snacks -Mix popped amaranth seeds with honey or molasses to make a treat known as "alegria" or "joy" in Mexico
- Juice carrots with amaranth leaves for a nutrient dense beverage
- Add amaranth flour to your favourite baking recipe. Amaranth flour combines well with traditional flours in a ratio of one part amaranth flour to four parts other flour.