Amaranth Everywhere

We grew beautiful, tall stalks of Golden Giant Amaranth last year, named for the color and size of its grain, not its flower, which is a lush, drooping, deep blood red color. Amaranth was a staple food of great importance to the Aztecs, Incas and Mayas. It is one of the two known grains that is a complete protein containing the eight essential amino acids and it was said that a man could march for a day by eating only a handful of the tiny, shiny seeds  

The Aztecs used amaranth seeds to make flour, first popping the seeds like popcorn. They used the leaves to make sauces and mixed the seeds with the sap of a cactus to make into a drink. Amaranth seeds were also used to pay tribute or taxes to the Aztec Empire. Throughout the year, amaranth seed was ground into a paste with honey and the sap of the maguey plant. The paste would be formed into various shapes and carried through the streets to the great temples and then fed to the people. This amaranth paste was consumed in much the same symbolic way as the Catholic Church rite of the Eucharist, as ritual communion with God(s). The Spanish found the Aztec "pagan" ritual offensive. Recognizing the sacred value of the amaranth to the Aztecs' heretical religion, the Spaniards banned the cultivation and use of amaranth in the Americas.*

The bucket on the left contains amaranth prior to being threshed. The bucket on the right is seed and chaff following the hand-threshing process I used.  

The Golden Giant Amaranth grain harvest was beautiful, once processed. 

The Golden Giant Amaranth grain harvest was beautiful, once processed. 

*many thanks to Tina Poles of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and her invaluable resource "A Handful of Seeds," for describing the historical uses and importance of amaranth.