50 shades of (pseudo)grain

Amaranth is a plant that few people know anything about. To start with, it is not even a cereal but rather a pseudograin, along with the quinoa, buckwheat, and the like. What is a pseudograin, you ask? Pseugograins, or pseudocereals as they are also called, are non-grasses which are used in the same or similar ways as true cereals. So as a pseudograin, amaranth can be ground into flour. In pre-Hispanic times, the Aztecs cultivated it for food and also for ritual drinks, consumed it as a medicinal herb, and used it to make ceremonial face and body paint. Nowadays, the grains are often toasted like popcorn for sweets and cereals.

Ancient but not outdated

Amaranth, which comes from the Greek amàrantos, means ‘unfading flower.’ The immortality suggested by the name almost rings true, as the species has been around for more than 9,000 years.

Due to its appearance when in bloom, you would assume that amaranth is an exceptional subtropical flower. In fact, it actually prefers a warm climate, full sun, and well-drained soil. It grows easily and is fairly maintenance-free. It can grow very high, sometimes even more than 1.5m. The flowers are mostly dark purple in color, but can also have other colors such as green, yellow, pink, orange, red, or brown, depending on the variety. The flowers are found on long straight stems, are long-lasting, and will bloom from mid-summer until the first hard frost.

Amaranth the superfood

But what makes amaranth so special that many are even calling it a superfood? Amaranth is gluten-free and wonderfully rich in nutrients. It contains a lot of protein – twice as much as rice, for example – and the seeds also contain iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Due to its high amount of dietary fiber, amaranth is also particularly good for the gastrointestinal tract. The nutrient bomb amaranth provides a lot of energy and keeps the brain healthy. Vegetarians and vegans in particular can benefit from the many nutrients that amaranth provides.

Sources: Wikipedia, Science Direct