Golden Grain of the Aztecs - Amaranth
This not very well known dual-purpose golden grain of the Aztecs is not only nutritious for its greens, it is also a high-protein whole grain.
Amaranth is one of the most nutritious, easy-to-grow and well-adapted plants on this earth. This plant can provide you with year round sustenance. In the early summer the young greens are a wonderful addition to salads with a flavor similar to spinach. As the leaves get bigger, they are delicious steamed, sautéed or added to soups. In the fall when the seed heads have matured they will yield many ounces of protein packed seeds with a slight nutty taste.
Most whole grains are about 10 percent protein, Amaranth seeds are about 16 percent protein and has a balanced amino acid profile high in lysine which is rare for plant foods and essential to humans for protein synthesis. The grain also contains generous amounts of iron, calcium, fiber and phosphorous. The leaves are high in protein as well as calcium, iron, beta carotene and fiber.
This plant requires very little water and can grow in almost any type of soil.
The first known record of amaranth is from about 6,000 years ago and was found in a mountain cave near Mexico City. In the 1500’s the possibilities are endless for making protein packed foods for your family.
We have enjoyed the young greens in our salads. We have sautéed the leaves in a little butter.
When harvesting the seeds, before the first frost you cut the top of amaranth was being widely cultivated by the Aztecs, and used it in a variety of their foods.. From one plant, from one tiny seed, you can get up to 100,000 seeds to add to your seed bank.
A hundred square feet or so should yield a few pounds of seed, enough for a winter’s worth of cooking. There are several varieties of amaranth to choose from. Our favorites are Golden Giant Amaranth, and Burgundy Amaranth.
We add the seeds to our morning oatmeal, add to the batter of muffins and breads. Grind the seeds into flour and the plant and you can either shake the seeds into a container or hang the plant head over a tarp where the seeds will drop when dried.
The next step once your seeds are dry is the process of winnowing; separating the grain from chaff. To do this you can simply put some seeds in a shallow pan and blow lightly on the seeds. The chaff will separate from the seed and fall to the ground.
Store your seeds as you would store any other grains. You can also grind the seeds into flour. In our opinion this is one of the most important plants in our garden. Not only for their nutritional value, but for their beauty as well.