Monday, 12 December 2016

7 Reasons to Grow and Eat Amaranth - A Simple Ancient Superfood

Amaranth is an amazing food - quite overlooked as a powerhouse. It's simple to grow, simple to cook and super delicious.





Amaranth is an ancient food with similar qualities to Quinoa. It has been cultivated as for 8,000 years and was a staple food of the Aztecs.

I love abundant plants like this and welcome them into my garden. All of the amaranth plant is edible - the roots, the leaves, the flowers and the seeds. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant annual that self-seeds and is easy to grow - particularly in hot times. Many varieties have spectacular flowers too.

Amaranth is a very popular food in many parts of the world and is known by many local names. Unfortunately in Australia, we underutilise it -  mostly I see it sold as a popped breakfast cereal, but there is so much more to this amazing food, and it's so very easy to grow.

Here’s seven good reasons to add it to your diet:

  1. HIGH IRON: Did you know that one cup of cooked Amaranth grain (actually a seed*) can provide you with much of your daily iron needs? I was amazed when I read this.  Having been a vegetarian since early childhood, finding new ways to keep my iron levels up is always interesting news to me.
  2. HIGH CALCIUM and Magnesium - also high in manganese, vitamins B and E, zinc and potassium.
  3. HIGH PROTEIN: Amaranth is one of the most protein rich plant based foods. Its seed has 20% protein. 
  4. HIGH LYSINE: Amaranth offers the highest source of vegetarian Lysine. Lysine, an amino acid, is a building block for protein, and it helps with calcium absorption and collagen production.
  5. GLUTEN FREE: Amaranth is gluten free. It can be ground as a flour or cooked as a psuedograin.
  6. HIGH FIBRE:  A diet high in fibre keeps the digestive system healthy
  7. EASY AND FAST TO GROW: Did you know you can get up to 100,000 seeds from one plant!  Amaranth is super easy and fast to grow. It takes less than 30 days before harvesting small leaves and just 50 days to maturity. It can cope with heat and dry conditions a lot better than any other leafy green. It grows easily in many contexts and self-seeds readily. You can eat the young leaves, but older ones are best cooked and used like spinach. I add amaranth leaves to all sorts of meals - stir fries, soups, quiches, omelettes, frittata, curries etc. (Typically people have cooked amaranth leaves to reduce their oxalic acid content.

I love the look of amaranth in the garden - it's flowers are amazing.


COOKING WITH AMARANTH
Cooking with amaranth is easy too. I love the added flavour it brings. Also I like its versatility. It’s good in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Since amaranth seed cooks more like polenta than rice with a consistency more like porridge than rice - it is great for breakfast. Actually amaranth porridge is a traditional breakfast in India, Peru, Mexico and Nepal. 

For other meals, I simply add Amaranth seeds to quinoa or rice to create a fluffier texture and nuttier flavour. It’s great in salads or with a curry. Like other seeds and grains, it’s a good idea to soak and rinse amaranth before cooking.  

You can eat the young leaves, but older ones are best cooked and used like spinach. I add amaranth leaves to all sorts of meals - stir fries, soups, quiches, omelettes, frittata, curries etc. (Typically people have cooked amaranth leaves to reduce their oxalic acid content.)

I also eat the immature amaranth flowers cooked and in salads.

What is your favourite way to eat amaranth?

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, my introduction to this seed. I'll shop for them soon and start experimenting. Always looking for healthful alternatives to ubiquitous grains.

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  2. Good morning Morag, I harvested some amaranth seeds from the Northy Street City Farm, when I did your "introduction to Permaculture" earlier this year. I have only recently planted them out and the seedlings are doing well. I can't wait to try cooking with amaranth, thanks for all the great info. Have a wonderful day.
    Fi

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  3. Amaranth grows so easily, self seeding, over at Beelarong Community Farm. I hang my head, it is under-utilised. Good to read this blog post to encourage me to do more with it - and spread the word at the farm. Thank you.

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  4. Here in the hot desert of Utah Wild amaranth that the ducks, chickens and rabbits love grows on its own with no watering. It produces lots of green seed flowers and great leaves. Anyone ever eat the wild Amaranth? UVPCGG would like to try all varieties and wondered if there was a good source for seeds.

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  5. I appreciate this post because once again, I am so encouraged to grow it. This will be part of my garden planning for Spring. Thanks.

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