Amaranth is a generic name for a group of more than 60 species of herbs. Each of the members of the genus has a different morphology. More than that, foliage and inflorescence may also differ from one species to the other, alternating between shades of gold, purple and red.
Amaranth herbs are found in several different forms, and therefore they are classified as cereals, leaf vegetables, ornamentals or weeds.
Amaranth is used in cuisine all around the world and it is highly appreciated for its nutritional value. It includes numerous vitamins and minerals, including
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Folic acid
However, you have to keep in mind that it also includes oxalic acid, which obstructs the assimilation of calcium and zinc.
Grain amaranth contains 30 percent more protein than oats, rice and rye. This fact makes it valuable to athletes and to people who perform physical exercises with regularity. Besides protein, amaranth cereals also contain essential amino acids, such as lysine. The grains will satisfy your nutritional needs through the high content of dietary minerals, such as:
Grains are appreciated for being easy to cook, for having a very good taste and for including numerous nutrients.
The species cultivated as leaf vegetables is steamed, smashed or stir-fried throughout eastern Asia. On the other hand, in the Caribbean people use amaranth leaves for preparing pepperpot soup. In Africa the leaves are used in numerous dishes, but they are also appreciated for increasing the body’s red blood cell count.
Ornamental Amaranth and Weeds
Several amaranth species that are native to India became popular as ornamental plants. The flowers of such species are either deep crimson or dark purple. Butterflies and moths feed from several varieties of amaranth.
There are other varieties of amaranth that pose serious threats to crops, especially cotton. In fact, these weeds are considered some of the most dangerous. However, by using certain herbicides, farmers are able to get rid of amaranth seeds.