General information and profile:
amaranth describes a pseudo-grain obtained from a plant of the genus Amaranthus belonging to the fox-tail plants as its seed. The name of the plant derives from the Greek word "amaranthos" which means "immortal" or "not wilting". Amaranth is a predominantly annual, heavily branched stems plant, which comprises about seventy species and is native to all continents except Antarctica. Amaranth thrives mainly in America, where the plant finds ideal growth conditions on warm soils. However, apart from a sunny location, the plant hardly claims and thrives on relatively poor soils. Sowing takes place in April, with flowering from July to late August. The seeds and leaves are harvested in early autumn before the first frost is applied. Today cultivated species that have been introduced from America, even in warm countries of Europe, thrive to produce amaranth grains. The tiny seeds of the plant are reminiscent of those of millet and can be processed similar to cereals. There are several species of amaranth worldwide, which are important as crops for the production of this pseudogetreide.
History of the cultivation of Amaranth:
Originally, Amaranth only flourished in Central and South America, India and some Asian countries, where people have been using grain as an important staple food for over nine thousand years, archaeological evidence confirms. This makes Amaranth one of the oldest crops on earth. The Aztecs attributed sacred attributes to the Amaranth, which they called "hiautli," and incorporated it into numerous ritual acts to appease their gods with offerings. Since the Aztecs also sacrificed human blood in the course of these ceremonies, the cultivation was banned under the rule of Spanish sailors from the 16th century. In many South and Central American countries, the tiny grains were the staple food alongside corn and quinoa. Therefore, amaranth in German-speaking countries is today often referred to as "Inka wheat".
Even today, amaranth is only harvested by hand, which explains the relatively high price of this food. At the same time amaranth is also very expensive because one plant only delivers about 50,000 grains per season. These are tiny and light in weight, so that a single gram consists of over 1500 grains. After the cut inflorescences have completely dried, the seeds can fall out and be collected.
Use of amaranth:
Amaranth was gradually forgotten as a nutrient-rich pseudo-grain by the ban on Spanish sailors. In recent decades, however, it has gained in importance again on an international level, as it is gluten-free and has a high nutrient content. Thus, the millet-like grains are suitable as an ingredient for the production of gluten-free baking mixes, which are a tolerable alternative to conventional cereals, especially for people with celiac disease. As a herbal source of valuable essential amino acids, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, Amaranth is today also integrated by many health-conscious people into a predominantly vegetarian whole-food diet. The seeds are also rich in iron, magnesium and calcium and are therefore recommended for people with increased nutritional needs such as pregnant women, children and seniors. Amaranth is a coveted food in muesli mixes and is often used as a filling ingredient for salads, power bars, vegetable dishes and pasta. Meanwhile, the beer and fast food industry has become aware of the grain and manufactures gluten-free products for increasingly health-conscious consumers. The stems and leaves of some species can be consumed as nutrient-rich vegetables, reminiscent of the taste of chard or spinach and is suitable for frying, baking or poaching.