Saturday, March 28, 2009

Move over, oatmeal...

On this cold, overcast morning, I had oatmeal on my mind.  In the way of my McCann's canister, was my forgotten jar of amaranth.  If you have never tried this darling of a grain (actually it's a seed), I would like to introduce you to the wonderfully tiny and delicious ancient food.  Used in cultures all over the world, amaranth, (an herb technically), is a powerhouse of nutrition, first used by the Aztecs, who believed it had supernatural powers and incorporated it into religious ceremonies.

The amaranth plant grows between 5 - 7 feet and has beautiful magenta flowers, or plumes.  It's an easy plant to grow - drought and heat tolerant - and the leaves are similar to spinach in both flavor and nutrition values.  

The seed, smaller than quinoa, is high in protein and iron as well as vitamin A and C.  It contains two amino acids, (lysine and methionine), rarely found in grains.  It is also high in calcium, five times more than milk, and is gluten - free.  
Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible, therefore a great food option for people recovering from illness.  For those with high blood pressure, amaranth can lower cholesterol and is high in linoleic acid.
Preparing amaranth is simple, I like it as a breakfast alternative to oatmeal and I fix it up the same way, with (almond) milk, fruit and honey.  But you could also use it in place of quinoa or brown rice, or add it to other grains for a added punch of texture and flavor.  It's sweet and malty, with a firm texture.  With a distinctive "pop", amaranth has a unique texture as it holds it's integrity after it's cooked.
You can find amaranth seed in a natural food store - as far as the leaves, check your local farmer's market.  Or even better,  grow it yourself!

Breakfast cereal:

1 cup amaranth seed
2 1/2 cups water or apple juice
pinch of sea salt

Bring liquid to boil, slowly add seeds, stirring as you pour, add salt.  Lower to simmer and cover for 18-20 minutes.  Be careful not to over cook, as seeds will become gummy.


2 comments:

tastestopping said...

Wow. You make quite a case for this grain. I mean seed. I mean herb! I think the nutritional information on calcium is what really hooked me. Finding new, natrually occurring sources is a plus. (Never thought of cooking oatmeal in apple juice, but it's an interesting thought for any breakfast grain.)

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Anh said...

Thanks so much for this informative post. I do not really know how to eat this grain, but you have educated me!