Friday, May 18, 2007

Specialty Grain - Amaranth

In the Himalayas, Amaranth grain is a crop of moderate importance . It was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Inca civilization, and it is known today in the Andes as kiwicha. It was also used by the ancient Aztecs, who called it huautli. Other Amerindian peoples in Mexico used Amaranth to prepare ritual drinks and foods.

Amaranth was used in several Aztec observances, where images of their gods (notably Huitzilopochtli) were made out of amaranth grain mixed with honey. The images were cut with the pieces to be eaten by the people. To the Roman Catholic priests who witnessed the ritual, this looked like the Christian Eucharist, thus the cultivation of Amaranth grain was forbidden for centuries.

Amaranth grain (especially A. cruentis and A. hypochondriaca) was revived in the 1970s largely due to its importance as a symbol of an indigenous culture, and because it is very palatable, easy to cook, and its protein is particularly well suited to human nutrition needs. Amaranth and Quinoa are the only two grain that contain complete protein. Besides Protein, Amaranth grain provides a good source of Dietary fiber and Dietary mineral such as Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper, and especially Manganese.
After cultivation having been forbidden, it was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties and is now commercially cultivated.

Amaranth’s use has spread to Europe and other parts of North America. It is a popular snack sold in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, sometimes mixed with Chocolate or Puffed grain. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like Popcorn and mixed with Honey or Molasses to make a treat called alegría (literally "joy" in Spanish).

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