Surprise, surprise – amaranth is a genus of herbs 🙂 There are tons of species available under this genus. Some of these are plain old weeds but some have great nutritional value as leafy vegetables and even more importantly cereal.
Various species of the grain Amaranth are widely used in Africa, Asia and South America in interesting ways. It is an inexpensive crop to cultivate because it can be harvested easily, grows rapidly, has high yield, can grow in arid environments but most importantly is “an excellent source of proteins and essential amino acids like Lysine, has high fiber content and is a good source of minerals like Iron and Magnesium ”. In the grain form interesting dishes like amaranth popcorn and other sweet dishes are made. It is also be used in granola, energy bars (AllerEnergy, allergy friendly energy bars are awesome, www.allerenergy.com ), soups and breakfast cereal. The grain can be ground into flour and used to make tortillas, breads and other baked goods. Substitute a part of your flour mixture with Amaranth flour to pack in the proteins.
Amaranth greens are also widely used as a leafy vegetable in large parts in India, China and other South-East Asian countries because they are a good source of vitamins (A, B, C and K).
Storage: When you store amaranth at home, it needs to be protected in a couple of ways. First, it needs to be protected from little critters like Weevils and rodents. Second, the grain should be stored in a dry place. In the US, companies like “Pleasant Hill Grain” sell amaranth in airtight containers. According to their website, ‘Mylar liners and oxygen absorber packets remove the oxygen from the air in the bucket after we put the lid on. The O2 absorbers leave an atmosphere of nitrogen in the bucket. Our buckets safely lock out pests, and biological processes are put “on hold” in the Mylar protected, oxygen-free nitrogen atmosphere.’ Their website goes on to say, ‘ In whole-grain foods, the plant’s cellular walls protect nutrients from oxidation. The process of oxidation begins to occur as soon as grain is ground, exposing the cell’s contents to oxygen in the air. Flour that is several days old, has been exposed to oxygen that inevitably diminishes its nutritional value. The way to get full nutrition from whole grain foods is to mill them when you need them, right in your kitchen.’
1) An excellent resource for Amaranth based products is ‘Nu-World Foods’ (www.nuworldamaranth.com). They offer a great selection of Amaranth breads, snacks, cereals and more.
2) Amazon: Amaranth Flour, 1 lb., Arrowhead Mills Amaranth Flakes, 12-Ounce Unit (Pack of 6), Bob’s Red Mill Organic, 100% Stone Ground Amaranth, 22-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4), Organic Amaranth Seeds- 1 Lbs- Grain Seed for Sprouting Sprouts, Cooking, Grinding For Flour, Soup, Food Storage & More
4) Health food stores like Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com), Fountain of Vitality etc.
Further Reading: I found this article on Amaranth a very useful read – ’a Healthy Grain for Vegetarian Recipes – http://www.chetday.com/amaranth.html’