If you’ve been to Guilford Gardens in the summertime, you have no doubt noticed the large, red stalks dotting the farm. This, my friend, is amaranth. By summer’s end most stalks were 6 feet tall. Amaranth adds gorgeous, low-maintenance color to the garden and it’s edible to boot. Look for it this summer; maybe Kamala will start tucking some amaranth greens in our CSA baskets.
August 10, 2009
Just as quinoa was a staple of the Incan diet, amaranth was that of the Aztecs. The grain can be cooked, ground, or popped. According to Gary Paul Nabhan, the Aztecs mixed amaranth grain with wild honey and sacrificial human blood. They shaped the sticky mix into statues of the gods, calling them candies of happiness, or alegrias. People still enjoy alegrias, sans blood.
Cooked amaranth grain has a slightly gelatinous quality and can be used to thicken soups. You could also use it as a breakfast cereal (see recipe below) or pilaf. Amaranth contains more of the essential amino acids than almost any other plant food, is quite high in calcium, and is second only to quinoa in iron.
The grain is also milled into flour. In Coming Home to Eat, Nabhan describes his efforts to find amaranth (as well as mesquite) tortillas: “I recalled the root meaning of amaranth, ‘the flower that does not fade,’ and only wished it had meant, ‘the flour that did not fade away from use.’” Amaranth flour is gluten free and can usually be found in health food stores.
But that’s not all! The greens are also edible. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Wouldn’t the red leaves add a nice diversion to your typical lettuce salad? You cook them just as you would any other green (see recipe below).
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
1 1/2 c water
1/2 c amaranth
Since amaranth is a tiny grain, it cooks quickly. Combine water, amaranth, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Top with whatever you like: honey, brown sugar, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, milk, yum!
Amaranth Greens with Brandied Orange Sauce
from Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook by Billy Joe Tatum
3 cups cooked amaranth greens
3 oz. frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 c water
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c fruit-flavored brandy, preferably apricot or peach
1 t fresh ginger, grated or chopped (1/2 t if dried)
freshly cooked hot rice or egg noodles to serve 8
1. Combine greens, orange-juice concentrate, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium.
2. Add brown sugar, brandy, and ginger root.
3. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve hot over rice or egg noodles.
Read Full Post »