Amaranth (Amaranthus) has a colourful history, is highly nutritious, and the plant itself is extremely attractive and useful. Amaranth was a staple in the diets of pre-Colombian Aztecs, who believed it had supernatural powers and incorporated it into their religious ceremonies.
Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. It is at its most nutritious however when cooked. Bring one part grain to two and a half parts water to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the grain is fluffy. It can then be used as an alternative to rice, pasta or cous cous. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent.
Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains respectable amounts of lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. It is high in fibre and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.
The fibre content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.