The amaranth plant produces a very attractive flower head whose tiny seeds can be eaten as grain and whose leaves may be eaten as greens. Amaranth was and is an important grain in the Aztec and Incan cultures. Its common name comes from the Greek for “unfading” in reference to its longstanding blooms which represent immortality and eternal youth.
Many species of amaranth grow wild across the US and are considered noxious weeds, though they are a favorite of some wildcrafting foragers who value the tasty greens. These are often called pigweed. See http://www.eattheweeds.com/amaranth-identification/ for more information.
On the other hand, some species of amaranth are highly valued in ornamental gardens, their nutritional value taking a backseat to their showy flowerhead. These include Love Lies Bleeding and Prince’s feather.
I like amaranth seeds prepared like grits with cheese and eggs or polenta for savory dishes. They are also tasty sweetened, as in the traditional treat Allegria. Amaranth can also be ground and added to bread. Amaranth flour can be used like other non-glutenous flours.
To prepare amaranth seeds, rinse and soak them for several hours or overnight, strain them (I use a tea strainer, the seeds are very small) and add 3 parts water or broth to each 1 part amaranth. Bring it to a boil and stir to make the floating seeds sink to the bottom and then reduce the heat to medium to medium-low, cover and let cook about 20 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.
Amaranth greens are tasty steamed or stir-fried and can be used any way you’d use spinach.
1 cup of cooked Amaranth seed contains:
251 calories, 46 g carbs (5.2 g fiber), 4 g fat
Amaranth is rich in Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus and is a good source of Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc & Copper
Amaranth contains amino acids lacking in other grains, but lacks amino acids common in other grains, making it a great addition to any mixed-grain dish.