Amaranth was one of the main food sources for the Aztecs, who also used it in religious rituals. Cultivation ended almost completely after Spanish conquistadors made growing the plant a punishable offense. Today, both farmers and anyone interested in nutrition are showing increasing interest in the plant because it has more protein (15 percent to 18 percent of calories) than most other grains (8 to 15 percent of calories). It also contains more lysine and methionine, amino acids not provided by many common grains. Combined with other grains, it can provide a complete balance of amino acids. Amaranth is also a source of calcium and magnesium and contains more iron than almost any other grain. The amaranth plant has long clusters of red flowers and grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet. It produces tiny seeds—up to 3 feet. It produces tiny seeds—up to 500,000 per plant. These seeds can be cooked and eaten as a grain or popped, sprouted, or ground into flour that has a strong, nutty flavor. Amaranth flour can range from a light yellow to dark violet, although most amaranth flour sold in stores is buff-colored. Pasta can be made from amaranth flour, and amaranth oil is obtained from the plant’s seeds. The green leaves and stalk of amaranth (also called pigweed) can be cooked and eaten. The leaves have a taste similar to that of spinach.
Amaranth flour does not contain gluten, which means baked goods containing it will not rise as desired and will be crumbly. It can be used in baked goods, but it should be combined with wheat flour (which contains gluten) in recipes for muffins, bread, cookies,or pastries. Because it has a nutty, assertive flavor, you may want to experiment somewhat with how much amaranth flour to add to recipes. Amaranth’s nutritional advantages, however, make adding it to baked
goods worthwhile. Amaranth seeds also can be cooked and eaten as a cereal. Or, they can be popped by adding them a tablespoon at a time to a hot, ungreased skillet. They take just a few minutes to pop.
In addition to using amaranth in baked goods as described above, amaranth can be substituted for flour in pancake or waffle recipes. Cinnamon particularly complements its flavor in both of these breakfast favorites. Amaranth leaves can be substituted for spinach in salads or cooked dishes. Popped amaranth seeds can be used as a garnish or topping or in breading recipes.
Amaranth Salad stuffed Carnival Squash
3 carnival squashes
few garlic cloves
1/2 to 2/3 cup of amaranth
Cut a small cap and clean the squashes
Put the cap back on. In a ovenproof casserole dish pout about 1/3 cup water and arrange the squashes.Cover well with aluminum foil.
Bake at 400 F for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the amaranth (1/2 cup amaranth in 1 cup water) simmering it in a covered pan until the water is absorbed.
In another pan, boil the corn and peas for 2-3 minutes.
In a bowl mix onion, garlic, bell pepper, cranberries, corn, peas, amaranth, parsley and carrot. Season to taste.
Remove the squashes from the oven, take off the cap and stuff them with the amaranth salad.
Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 30-40 more minutes, until the squash is cooked.