Amaranthus also popularly known as Amaranth is a tropical plant whose seeds and greens have been grown and used in India, Central and Latin America. The Amaranth Leaves, come in both green and red forms or a combination of both colors. Amaranth comes in all sizes, shapes and colours. The leaves can be round or lance shaped, five to fifteen cm long or more, light green, dark green, reddish or variegated. Seeds maybe white, yellow, pink or black. The seeds and the leaves of the plant are known to be highly nutritious and makes a perfect vegetables or as a salad green.
Native Names: Mulai Keerai (Tamil), Chaulai (Hindi)
How to select:
The Amaranth leaves are not soft and tender like the spinach leaves not are they bright green. These greens are sturdy and have thick firm stems and comes in colors of green, reddish or a combination of both green and red. When you choose the leaves, make sure they stand out fresh and they are not wilting down. As these leaves, unlike the spinach can stay fresh for a longer time. These greens once cooked don't reduce too much in quantity like the spinach leaves, for example a 500 grams of Amaranth leaves can serve 3 to 4 servings of the stir fried recipe where as a 500 grams of spinach will serve 1 to 2 servings of the stir fried recipe.
How to store:
Once the Amaranth is bought, trim tough stems and store the unwashed Amaranth leaves wrapped tightly in cotton cloth and then into ziplock bag. This way Amaranth leaves stay fresh for a longer duration. Make sure you wash the Amaranth leaves before consumption as the leaves and stems will have the soil and chemicals. If you are buying the grains, then buy them in small quantities or is buying 1 or 2 Kilos a time, then you can store them in the freezer so they don't turn stale.
The leaves of the Amaranthus are used very similar to how you would use a spinach leaf or any other edible greens. The young and tender greens can be used in salads and eaten raw, how ever the more longer and tougher greens, and even the stems can be chopped up and cooked and spiced up as a side dish. The Amaranth grains can be used very similar to the way you would use couscous, or broken wheat or even semolina (sooji rava). You can make, upmas, salads, substitute them for rice or even make energy bars. Amaranth flour can be used to thicken soups, sauces, as gluten free flours and more.
Recommended Cooking Techniques:
Amaranth Grain is cooked very similar to rice or pasta or couscous. It is cooked in water until it soft and edible to eat. 1 cup of Amaranth or 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water would cook the amaranth to a desired consistency. The Greens when stir fried or steamed would help retain the nutrition providing maximum health benefits.
Amaranth is rich minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous, and carotenoids, than most vegetables. Research studies show that it has a remarkable protein content: 28.1 grams of protein compared to the 26.3 grams in oats and 13.1 grams in rice. Research studies also show that the protein in amaranth is among the most nutritious vegetable-based protein and can be considered on par with protein from animal-based products. Studies show that the oils and phytosterols in amaranth grains help lower cholesterol levels, including LDL and triglycerides, inflammation, and blood pressure, making it an all-around good food for heart health. The high fiber in the Amaranth grains and the leaves, help in slow digestion and slow release of sugars and energy making it a diabetic friendly food.