Amaranth, amaranthus gangeticus, is an annual plant that is used as greens, and its seeds as a grain. It is thought to have originated in Mexico. The amaranth is a principle staple of the Aztecs. It was also used in religious ceremonies.
Amaranth greens are large and are either green streak with magenta, or magenta with green accents. They are round or lanced shaped and about 2 to 6 inches long. There are several varieties of amaranth greens. The greens have a delicious, slightly sweet flavor. Amaranth greens can be used like spinach. They wilt very easily. The plant produces red flowers. They look like tassels. One plant can produce about 500,000 seeds.
The seeds are used like cereal, or ground into flour. They have a slightly pepper, molasses like flavor, with a slight nuttiness. The grains are tiny. They are shiny, and can be yellow, or black. Whole amaranth can also be used as a thickener when cooked. They get slightly gummy, like okra. When the grains are ground into flour, the flour is unusually moist, and sweet. There is no gluten amaranth flour, so it does not rise when baked. Amaranth flour is high in protein.
Amaranth is very nutritious. The grains are high in protein, due to the balance of its amino acids. It is rich in lysine, methionine, and tryptophan. It also contains magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, potassium, folic acid, panthothenic acid, calcium, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and vitamins B6, and C. Amaranth grains have twice the iron, and four times the calcium as durum wheat.