Friday, January 22, 2010

Amaranth - Red Hopi

There was a single "Hopi Red Dye" amaranth in some plants I received from my friend Daisy last summer (above).  The tiny little flowers in the foreground and around the amaranth are my perennial marjoram. This burgundy red beauty grew to 2 feet and is a tender annual that can re-seed in some areas.  In hotter areas it grows 4-6 feet tall.  Some of my cooking class students that are into gardening and landscaping told me that it is grown as a flower.  I got to thinking that it must be edible as amaranth is eaten as a grain in South America.  But was this red amaranth edible?

I did a bit of research and found that the baby leaves are edible and can also be used to add red contrast to salad greens. Young plants can be steamed and the seeds are also ground into a high-protein, gluten-free flour. It is said to have been used by the Hopi as a food dye and to produce red cornbread.  I dried the seeds so I can grow more this summer.  The seeds are smaller than poppy seeds and you can see a few of them around the dish of the plate below.  The grains, which are actually seeds, cook up a bit sticky so it is often recommended you cook them with other grains like rice or oats.

I also read that the seeds of amaranth can be cooked like rice or popped like popcorn. I don't have enough to do that but the idea intrigues me.  You would have to grow a lot of it for amaranth popcorn!  Have any of you tried popping it?  To pop the amaranth you heat the seeds in skillet, with or without oil and you are supposed to end up with  little white puffs.  Put a lid on it as they pop so they don't escape!  You can use these as mini croutons on soup or salad. I like that idea.

Both amaranth and quinoa were considered sacred by the Aztecs and Incas. Obviously the Hopi too given the name of this variety of amaranth plant.  I teach nutrition and I often site that there are 3 sources of complete proteins in the plant world - soy beans, amaranth and quinoa.  Amaranth has 15-18% protein.  Both grains contain high amounts of the amino acids lyseine and methionine which are generally present in low amounts in common grains.  Amaranth is higher in fibre and iron than whole-grain wheat and suited to gluten-free and wheat-free diets. 

NUTRITION FACTS (per 60 ml raw grain = 49 g dry): 180 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, 8 g fibre and 7 g protein.  % Daily Values are 4% vitamin C, 8% calcium and 20% iron.

Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.
Visit me at Chapman's Landing Cooking Studio website and find out more about our classes, menus and registration.


Ken Bowie said...

I used to use Baby Amaranth in our Fine Dining Salads...always loved the flavour and colour contrast of it!! Much nicer than Red Oak.

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

Unfortunately last summer I didn't know about the culinary possibilities and didn't taste it at all. C'est domage. But, I have the seeds to grow more and will for sure be doing it next spring. So, how much could be used in a salad.... gentle taste like a lettuce?

Anonymous said...

Hey its great. I have many clients with this autoimmunity disorder. A a great cook book is what they need on what to use for baking e.g., rice flower, clean food them that is safe for celiacs to eat and where to buy.

Ken Bowie said...

I used to throw a few bunches into each batch of greens...I used to make a purple pesto out of them the odd time too.
Speaking of seeds and growing...wanna gift some seeds to a needy Rooftop Oil Sands Garden?? Read my blog on it.
Let me know :)

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

I looked at the blog quickly. I think it is a marvelous project and I look forward to reading and seeing how it all comes together. What kind of seeds do you want? Amaranth? I have small and large sunflowers. Lots of parsley seeds and squash. Thinking of what I collected. Pink mallow, granny's bonnet (columbine)... would be good to do a good assortment of edible flowers like woodland violets and Johny Jump Ups. Can you grow a staghorn sumac up there!!! Great for teas and sumac powder although different than middle eastern one.

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

Wikipedia is quite comprehensive in reviewing nutritionals and use of amaranth around the world.

Ken Bowie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Bowie said...

I think everything should do well...and should get full sun all day long because they are on the roof of the hotel. Anything you think might grow .. I am into trying to grow. Your choice :)