Botanical Name: Amaranthus

Amaranth is one of the oldest grains and dates back to Aztec civilisation 8.000 years ago, mainly grown in what is today Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. It’s name is believed to come from the Greek word “Amarantos”, which means “one that does not wither”, explaining how its flowers remain a vibrant red, even after having been picked. Amaranth plants can grow up to almost 2 metres tall with broad green leaves.

Like quinoa, Amaranth is not technically a grain, and is generally called a pseudo-cereal, given its similar properties to more well-known grains. A little commonly uknown fact: there are up to 60 different species! Today it is mainly cultivated in India, China and Nepal, as well as in several Latin American countries.

Amaranth is gluten-free, a very good source of protein (about 30% more than rice, sorghum and rye) and rich in the amino acid lysine, which is essential for humans and complementary with the other types of amino acids present in other less dense cereals such as wheat and corn. In addition, amaranth also is high in manganese, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Some studies have detected that amaranth contains beneficial omega-3s and phytochemical compounds such as rutines and peptides that are associated with lowering blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even incidencies of some forms of cancer.

Nowadays, it’s easy to find amaranth in your local supermarket. Chefs and foodies around the world are constantly finding new ways to include this grain in daily diets, from breakfast cereal to boiled as a side dish or the roasted crunchy addition to a healthy salad.

Image: Elkins Park Front Yard Farm