#BlackHistoryEats / Day 21 / Amaranth

 Source: www.liseed.org

Source: www.liseed.org

HISTORY /

  • Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.) is a genus of perennial plants with more than 50 different species.
  • Amaranth goes by many names: mchicha in Swahili, terere among the Gikuyu, Meru and Embu of Kenya, doodo in Uganda and shoko in Yoruba
  • Amaranth leaves have provided many societies in Africa with about 25% of their daily protein for thousands of years. 
  • Amaranth grows very quickly (leaf harvest is usually within 3 to 4 weeks)
  • Amaranth was a staple food of the Aztec people and considered sacred in religious ceremonies

NUTRITION /

  • Amaranth leaves are very high in protein (they specifically contain the vital amino acid 'lysine') and contain about 30% more protein than other cereal grains (i.e. rice, sorghum, rye, etc.)
  • They are also very high in iron and contain rich levels of vitamins A and C as well as calcium.
  • In South African, women at amaranth greens to promote milk flow
  • Amaranth is naturally gluten-free

PREPARATION /

  • Amaranth seeds and leaves and prepared in a variety of ways
  • The leaves are used in a lot of Caribbean cooking -- especially in callaloo (a gumbo-like stew)
  • Amaranth seeds have a rich, nutty flavor and are cooked similarly to quinoa and millet and are milled into flour to make bread. The seeds can also be used to make porridge (here's a great simple recipe from Tish Wonders for amaranth porridge with apples and raisins)
  • Amaranth leaves are considered "potherbs" and are soft in texture, mild in flavor, and have no trace of bitterness (unlike bitter greens like mustard and collards which are often boiled down to remove the bitterness) -- in fact amaranth leaves are young and tender similar to spinach
  • Amaranth seeds burst just like popcorn when heated; yumm!