|Grain of the Month: Amaranth|
Our new Bulk Department buyer Bronwyn will be starting a new program called Grain of the Month! She will be highlighting a new grain or item in the bulk section and offering recipes and demos. Our Co-op nutritionist will also highlight this grain each month in Food for Thought. Enjoy!
by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
Amaranthus is a beautiful and lush tall plant with beautiful foliage and brilliant flowers that I have seen in my neighbor's gardens. Little did I know there are more than 60 species of amaranthus, commonly known as amaranth. The origin of amaranth is from the Greek amarantos meaning "one that does not wither" and the plant definitely matches that description. Only three species of amaranth are grown for their edible seeds. One plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds! Amaranth seeds are actually smaller than millet or quinoa! It is truly amazing that this tiny seed similar in color to brown sesame seeds provides such a nutritional punch!
Amaranth is native to South America and has been around for thousands of years and is considered an ancient grain. It was used both as a food and in religious rituals long ago.
Because of its unusually high protein composition, amaranth is unlike other grains. It contains lysine, an amino acid (the building blocks of protein) often missing in other grains. Researchers have reported that amaranth's protein composition is the highest of this pseudo-grain group and is close to that of animal sources. In comparison to other grains some of its proteins are more soluble and easily digested. It provides two to three times more calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium than many other grains. It is a significant source of fiber and provides a startling 53 percent of the daily value for manganese, which is important for its role in skin health, blood sugar control, and bone health. It's one of the few grains that contains vitamin C too.
Amaranth is found in the Bulk section along with other gluten-free grains. Its tiny seeds pop out quickly when handled so scoop it carefully into a bag. It absorbs water very quickly so it needs more than the usual two-to-one ratio that other grains require—don't skimp on the water and be ready to add more as it cooks.
Store amaranth in an airtight container, preferably in a cool dark place. In the summer it is best to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer and use within six months. It is definitely a worthy addition to any meal. I have started enjoying it as a breakfast porridge with walnuts and cinnamon and a touch of honey; an easy way to prepare this ancient food!
Enjoy the recipes!