Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Main Facts about Amaranth
Amaranth is a moderately tall, broad-leafed, bushy type of plant that grows about six feet in height with green or sometimes purle colored flowers and red thick stems similar to sunflower. The flowers are made up of miniscule, grain-like buds. Technically amaranth isn't a grain like oats, wheat, or rice. It's sometimes referred to as a "pseudo-cereal" because its nutritional profile is very similar. Amaranth's brightly colored flowery head can produce as many as 60,000 seeds. These seeds are the amaranth grains found in amaranth cereal and flour. Amaranth is a very hardy plant, difficult to kill. It was largely used by Aztecs before the conquest 8,000 years ago (it is thought to constitute 80% of their diet and was a part of many ritual drinks). There are approximately 60 species. One of the most important aspects of this plant is that it is gluten free. It is perfect for vegan diets. Amaranth was recommended by NASA for consumption in space missions.
Using AmaranthThe grain has 12 to 17% protein, and is high in lysine, an essential amino acid in which cereal crops are low. The grain is high in fiber and low in saturated fats. Recent studies have linked amaranth to reduction in cholesterol in laboratory animals. More iron, calcium, protein, manganese, fiber than weat or rice. Gluten free. Especially digestible. Good for your heart. Suitable for those with celiac disease, recovering from illness or transitioning from a fast or cleanse. Used for diarrhea, gastroenteritis, excessive menstruation.
Caution!Do not consume if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Cooking with AmaranthAmaranth can be eaten raw or steamed. Whole plant is edible. Flour can be put into smoothies etc. Seeds better if soaked overnight. Roots can be roasted or boiled as potato alternative. Amaranth can be simmered like other grains and has a porridge-like texture. It can be combined with other grains if you desire a more "rice-like" dish. It can also be popped in a skillet like popcorn, which gives it a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
How to grow AmaranthSeeds are very small, so it is important to have a fine, firm seedbed. Seeds should be planted no more than 1/2 inch deep. Heavy textured soils should be avoided. The crop is usually sown in late May or early June when the soil temperature is at least 65°F.
Amaranth Toxic Look-alikesHairy Nightshade, whose leaves look the same but stem is hairy and has white nightshade flower.