Amaranth also includes Amaranthus caudatus, a plant that the indigenous peoples of the Americas cultivated for several thousands of years in the Andes and Central America. The seeds are an important source of protein. With its 60 species, the genus grows all around the globe — except for
in Antarctica — but primarily in warmer climates and in the Americas. In Europe, it is found in the wild and is in bloom, usually dark purple, from July to September. Amaranth is not resistant to frost.
Harvest and use:
The seeds can be harvested in September and October. Along with 14% protein, they also contain alpha-linolenic acid, unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and lysine. Fresh leaves can be used in the same manner as spinach or lettuce, and dried leaves can be made into a medicinal tea. The leaves should be harvested before the flowers. The round, discus-shaped seeds are less than 1 mm thick, but can grow into a plant containing 50 thousand seeds. The lighter-colored seeds are more popular, but species with black seeds produce better leaves.
From Wikipedia: “Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth, is a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, pseudocereals, and ornamental plants. Most of the species from Amaranthus are summer annual weeds and are commonly referred to as pigweed. Catkin-like cymes of densely packed flowers grow in summer or autumn. Approximately 60 species are recognized, with inflorescences and foliage ranging from purple and red to green or gold.”
“Ancient amaranth grains still used to this day include the three species, Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus. Although amaranth was cultivated on a large scale in ancient Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru, nowadays it is only cultivated on a small scale there, along with India, China, Nepal, and other tropical countries; thus, there is potential for further cultivation in those countries, as well as in the U.S. In a 1977 article in Science, amaranth was described as "the crop of the future." It has been proposed as an inexpensive native crop that could be cultivated by indigenous people in rural areas for several reasons:
“1 cup (2.4dl, 245g) of cooked amaranth grain (from approx. 65 g raw) provides 251 calories and is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, and some dietary minerals. Amaranth is particularly rich in manganese, magnesium, iron, and selenium.
Cooked amaranth leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, manganese and folate.
Amaranth contains phytochemicals that may be anti-nutrient factors, such as polyphenols, saponins, tannins and oxalates which are reduced in content and effect by cooking.”
For the Incas and Aztecs, the Amaranth seeds served as a staple food and meat replacement. However, the Spanish conquerors outlawed the consumption of both amaranth and quinoa, punishable by death, and this caused a famine amongst the indigenous peoples that resulted in more than 10 million deaths.