Amaranth the solution to world hunger, malnutrition, disease, and poverty.
By Richard Thomas
The People of The World Shall Eat Amaranth. It can feed the world and has the essential elements which are missing from wheat, oats, and rice. It is a superior food and seems that it was designed for us. As awareness grows demand will grow and those that grow it shall prosper. It will grow where wheat and rice cannot because it needs little irrigation. Amaranth has been touted as a miracle grain, a supergrain, and the grain of the future, yet it is not a true grain it is something quite different.
Amaranth was once almost wiped off the face of the earth by the Spaniards. Adopting Amaranth as the world’s food staple could alleviate many of the world’s problems especially those occurring in nations not fully developed. It may even have an impact on the spread of AIDS since HIV can not penetrate healthy skin tissue. Amaranth provides virtually, all the raw materials needed by the human bio-machine for proper functioning; it has what most gluten based grains including two essential amino acids, lysine and methionine. It seems to have been designed specifically for this purpose. . It resists heat and drought, has no major disease problems, and grows in poor soil and is among the easiest of plants to grow. There is one drawback which is also a great blessing; it is labor intensive. This is why although a superior food it is not as prolific as corn, rice, wheat etc. This is also why it can eliminate poverty in the less developed nations. Being labor intensive allows the unskilled to provide something of great value to the skilled workers who in turn provide value to the unskilled workers.
With increased consumer awareness, demand will rise, world hunger will fade away, poverty will be eliminated, and developed and undeveloped countries will save billions due to the reduction in deficiency related disease. It is very nourishing to infants. The Global Amaranth Awareness Project needs your support.
It is recommended that the consumption of cheap to produce gluten based grains be reduced in favor of biochemicaly complete foods like Amaranth.
If one were to design the most efficient machine for the extraction and packaging of elements from the soil for conversion and using by the human body this plant would be that machine.
Amaranth (Amaranthus) has a colorful history, is highly nutritious, and the plant itself is extremely attractive and useful. Amaranth was a staple in the diets of pre-Columbian Aztecs, who believed it had supernatural powers and incorporated it into their religious ceremonies. Synonyms such as "mystical grains of the Aztecs," "super grain of the Aztecs," and the "golden grain of the Gods" were used to describe the nutritious amaranth grain. The grain was noted to be nourishing to infants and to provide energy and strength to soldiers on extended trips. Before the Spanish conquest in 1519, Amaranth was used in several Aztec ceremonies, where images of their gods were made with Amaranth mixed with honey. The images were cut to be eaten by the people. This looked like the christian comunion to the catholic priests, so the cultivation of this seed was forbidden for centuries. Every crop of Amaranth that could be found was burned. Punishment for possession of the grain became so harsh that even having one seed was punished by chopping off the hands. Amaranth quickly became a ‘lost’ seed for many generations. Presently, Amaranth is grown in Mexico, Peru and Nepal as well as in the United States. The grain was forbidden by the Spanish, and consequently fell into obscurity for hundreds of years. If not for the fact that the cultivation of amaranth continued in a few remote areas of the Andes and Mexico, it may have become extinct and completely lost to us.
Amaranth is used in various cultures in some very interesting ways. In Mexico it is popped and mixed with a sugar solution to make a confection called "alegria" (happiness), and milled and roasted amaranth seed is used to create a traditional Mexican drink called "atole."
Peruvians use fermented amaranth seed to make "chicha" or beer. In the Cusco area the flowers are used to treat toothache and fevers and as a food colorant for maize and quinoa. During the carnival festival women dancers often use the red amaranth flower as rouge, painting their cheeks, then dancing while carrying bundles of amaranth on their backs as they would a baby.
In both Mexico and Peru the amaranth leaves are gathered then used as a vegetable either boiled or fried. In India amaranth is known as "rajeera" (the King’s grain) and is popped then used in confections called "laddoos," which are similar to Mexican "alegria."
In Nepal, amaranth seeds are eaten as gruel called "sattoo" or milled into flour to make chappatis. In Ecuador, the flowers are boiled then the colored boiling water is added to "aquardeinte" rum to create a drink that "purifies the blood," and is also reputed to help regulate the menstrual cycle.
Since 1975 amaranth has been gaining support in the U.S. and is now grown in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and other states, but is still not a mainstream food. It is found in many natural food stores and the flour is often used in baked goods.
The name amaranth hails from the Greek for "never-fading flower." The plant is an annual herb, not a "true" grain and is a relative of pigweed, a common wild plant also known as lamb’s-quarters, as well as the garden plant we know as Cockscomb. There are approximately 60 species of amaranth and there is no definite distinction between amaranth grown for the leaf (vegetable), and the seed (grain).
Amaranth is a bushy plant that grows 5 to 7 feet, with broad leaves and a showy flower head of small, red or magenta, clover like flowers which are profuse, and constitute the plants exquisite, feathery plumes. The seed heads resemble corn tassels, but are somewhat bushier. They are quite striking as well. The seeds are tiny (1/32"), lens shaped, and are a golden to creamy tan color, sprinkled with some occasional dark colored seeds.
Each plant is capable of producing 40,000 to 60,000 seeds. The leaves of ornamental varieties, such as Joseph’s Coat resemble the coleus plant and are quite striking. Their coloring can range from deep red, purple-red, orange, pink, green, to white. The sight of a full-grown amaranth field with its vividly colored leaves, stems and flower or seed heads is an amazingly beautiful sight that evokes much emotion.
Aside from amaranth being such an attractive plant it is extremely adaptable to adverse growing conditions. It resists heat and drought, has no major disease problems, and is among the easiest of plants to grow. Simply scratching the soil, throwing down some seeds, and watering will reward you with some of these lovely plants.
Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent.
Amaranth flour is used in making pastas and baked goods. It must be mixed with other flours for baking yeast breads, as it contains no gluten. One part amaranth flour to 3-4 parts wheat or other grain flours may be used. In the preparation of flatbreads, pancakes and pastas, 100% amaranth flour can be used. Sprouting the seeds will increase the level of some of the nutrients and the sprouts can be used on sandwiches and in salads, or just to munch on.
To cook amaranth boil 1 cup seeds in 2-1/2 cups liquid such as water or half water and half stock or apple juice until seeds are tender, about 18 to 20 minutes. Adding some fresh herbs or gingerroot to the cooking liquid can add interesting flavors or mix with beans for a main dish. For a breakfast cereal increase the cooking liquid to 3 cups and sweeten with Stevia, honey or brown rice syrup and add raisins, dried fruit, allspice and some nuts.
Amaranth has a "sticky" texture that contrasts with the fluffier texture of most grains and care should be taken not to overcook it as it can become "gummy." Amaranth flavor is mild, sweet, nutty, and malt like, with a variance in flavor according to the variety being used.
Amaranth keeps best if stored in a tightly sealed container, such as a glass jar, in the refrigerator. This will protect the fatty acids it contains from becoming rancid. The seeds should be used within 3 to 6 months.
The leaves of the amaranth plant taste much like spinach and are used in the same manner that spinach is used. They are best if consumed when the plant is young and tender.
Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains respectable amounts of lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.
The fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.
Amaranth also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans. Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible and because of this ease of digestion, it has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, which is found mostly within the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and is high in linoleic acid, which is important in human nutrition.
The amaranth seeds have a unique quality in that the nutrients are concentrated in a natural "nutrient ring" that surrounds the center, which is the starch section. For this reason the nutrients are protected during processing. The amaranth leaf is nutritious as well containing higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels than spinach.
For something new, different, and highly nutritious in your diet, try amaranth and have some fun experimenting and discovering your favorite ways to use it. If you would like to learn more about whole grains and their uses, you may wish to try one of these books. They are available at Amazon and can be purchased through Health and Beyond Online by simply clicking on the title.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified it as a major crop potential. Amaranth is now recognized as the superior grain in terms of high quality nutritional value.
Amaranth has the amino acids most vegetarian diets are missing.
Harvesting amaranth is a labor-intensive process (jobs), so it's a relatively expensive product. Some large supermarkets do stock amaranth alongside rice, barley, and other grains; if you don't find it there, look for amaranth at a health-food store.
MINI – POPCORN The grains can be toasted as you would sesame or poppy seeds; they pop and puff like popcorn (although much smaller of course). Toast just a tablespoonful of the seeds at a time in a heavy, ungreased skillet, tossing and stirring them over high heat for a few seconds until they pop. One tablespoon will produce about 1/4 cup of popped amaranth.
The potential complimentary nature of amaranth protein has been studied by combining amaranth with wheat (Pant 1985), sorghum (Pedersen 1987) and maize (Tovar and Carpenter 1982; Sanchez Marroquin and Maya 1985). Ordinary maize meal supplemented with as little as 12.7% (by weight) of toasted amaranth flour provides a nutritionally superior source of protein that can satisfy a good portion of the protein requirement of young children, and provide approximately 70% of diet energy (Morales et al. 1988). A combination of rice and amaranth in a 1:1 ratio has been reported to approach the FAO/WHO protein specifications (Singhal and Kulkarni 1988).
Amaranth grain contains 6 to 10% oil, which is found mostly within the germ (Betschart et al. 1981, Lorenz and Hwang 1985, Garcia et al. 1987a). It is predominantly an unsaturated oil (76%) and is high in linoleic acid, which is necessary for human nutrition. In analyses conducted at the USDA Western Regional Research Center, amaranth oil was found to have 7% squalene, which is much higher than the amounts found in other common vegetable oils. Squalene, a high priced material, is usually extracted from shark livers and used in cosmetics (Lyon and Becker 1987).
The Thomas Jefferson Institute contains a great deal of information related to growing and marketing the grain.
It has a relatively high fraction of squalene in its seed oil, which sells for thousands of dollars a pound; whether the squalene can be economically extracted has yet to be determined. The anthocyanin (reddish) pigments in amaranth flours and vegetation appear to have great potential for competing with sugar beets as a source of natural, non-toxic red dyes. Perhaps most intriguing is the microcrystalline starch in amaranth seed, which is about one-tenth the size of corn starch particles. The small size of the starch can be of value in both food and industrial uses.
If the market demand for amaranth were larger, there would be thousands of farmers growing it at its current price. It is very easy to show on paper how to make a profit growing amaranth, but much harder to market a large quantity of seed into the small but growing health food market. Amaranth grown conventionally brings around $0.40 per pound, while organic amaranth may sell for $0.65 per pound or more. Since amaranth in Missouri can routinely yield 1000 pounds per acre, and sometimes double that, amaranth gross returns easily beat commodity crops.
Old Way - Treat symptoms of disease.
Note: If a soil lacks minerals so will the plants grown on it. Soil that has been used to grow plants for hundreds or thousands of years is deficient in many minerals. The ocean has the minerals needed to replenish the soil. Take the Seaweed / Kelp and put it on the land.
Seaweed, which originates from the ocean's garden, is one of the best materials for an earth garden. For one thing, kelp helps stimulates soil bacteria. This, in turn increases fertility of the soil by humus formation (which feeds on the bacteria), aeration and moisture retention. Let's look at some other ways that kelp helps:
Kelp is loaded with minerals and nutrients. Recent studies show that kelp is one of the best materials you can feed your plants. In, Kodiak, Alaska gardeners collect it by the truckload.
Seaweed also comes in a variety of commercial products, as a liquid kelp extract, as a dried kelp meal or blend. Kelp, for example, is the main ingredient in PlanTea, the patented, organic plant food in tea bags. After brewing a batch of PlanTea, you can use it as a concentrate or diluted as a foliar spray. Each 3 x 4-inch tea bag makes 5 gallons of foliar spray.
You can apply fresh kelp directly to the soil (some people suggest rinsing it to remove the sea salt, but for the past 15 years I've never found it necessary). Arrange it as a 2 to 4-inch mulch layer or include it in the compost pile. Seaweed decays quickly because it contains little cellulose. What's nice too, is that you don't introduce weed seeds with seaweed mulch.
You can also apply kelp as a liquid fertilizer at the base of plants to reach the root zone, add it to a drip irrigation system or as a dilute foliar spray. In recent tests at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, soil sprayed with a seaweed solution had 67 percent to 175 percent more roots than untreated soil.
To make your own liquid kelp, add a couple handfuls of seaweed to a 5-gallon bucket of water. Stir the concoction daily for a few days, then strain and dilute it 1 part kelp liquid to 2 parts water.
1 part kelp liquid to 2 parts water
Any sprayer or mister will work, from hand-trigger units to backpack models. The best times to spray are early morning and early evening, when the liquids will be absorbed most quickly. Spray the tops and bottoms of leaves until the liquid drips off the leaves.
Take preventive measures with kelp
According to Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (TIP: Inexpensive, used copies of this "indispensable resource for every gardener" are available through Amazon.com), sprays of seaweed extract can help prevent plant diseases. “They work by improving the overall health of the plant."
Such foliar sprays (liquid fertilizers sprayed on plants) are up to 20 times more effective as a way to supply nutrients when the soil is poor quality or when roots are stressed from transplant shock or suffering from extreme heat and drought conditions. Here, too, PlanTea is very effective in improving soil conditions and giving plants a helpful boost.
As people become more sensitive to environmental issues, the need for organic gardening methods plays a critical role in our health and the health of the planet. The use of kelp--a natural, renewable gift from the ocean--helps us with our efforts in the garden. What could be nicer?