The word ‘Amaranth’ is derived from the greek term ‘amarantos’ meaning ‘unwithering’. The term was applied to Amaranth for its hearty characteristics that for the people that used it, came to symbolize immortality. The Hindi term for Amaranth, Ramdana, means God’s own grain. This bountiful seed is grown all throughout India from the high slopes of the Himalayas to the many coastlines of the country. Numerous different Amaranth varieties are grown throughout the country, but the Himalaya region is know as the Amaranth ‘centre for diversity’ for the number of varieties that grow in the region. This crop is also a native species to the Andean region of South America, including Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. In the Andes region it remains widely grown today.This crop has been called ‘Incan Wheat’ because it was a staple food for the Incas, but was used long before this time. Today the grain often goes by the name kiwicha. In North America/Europe where this crop is sometimes sold, it occasionally goes by the name ‘love-lies-bleeding’ due to its bright, fluorescent colour ranges.
Amaranth is a hardy crop, high in fibre. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein level as high as the value found in fish, red meat, or poultry. The grain is very easy for the body to digest and so is traditionally eaten during fasts, and given to those who are recovering from illness. Amaranth is consumed as both a vegetable and a grain. The leaves of the plant are frequently used in countries throughout Africa, the Caribbean, China and even Greece in various dishes and stir-frys. In China, it is believed that eating Amaranth greens are great for improving eye sight, and in countries throughout Africa it is recommended by doctors for people with low red blood cell count. The Hills People in India believe they get their strength from the daily consumption of this super grain! Commonly, the grain is popped before it is consumed which is often made into gruel called sattu or laddoos. The grain can further be ground into flour and mixed with other types of flours to make everyday staples like chapatti.
While amaranth may be known as a ‘forgotten food grain’ its taste and exceptional health benefits recognized around the world make it a grain that is still prominent in the lives of people in many different places and should not be soon forgotten!
Navdanya’s Amaranth Cutlet
75 gms Popped Amaranth/Ramdana
200 gms Potatoe
15 gms Peas
15 gms Carrot
3 tbsp Garam Masala
2 tsp Black Pepper
50 gms Peanuts
Salt to taste
1 Small bunch Coriander Leaves
1 Green Chili
Peel, boil and mash the potato and carrot; boil the peas and mix together
Finely chop coriander leaves and green chili
Add amaranth, coriander, green chili, pepper, garam masala and salt, mix well until dough is ready
Make the dough into small oval shapes, and press between your palms to flatten
Heat cooking oil in frying pan, once hot place the cutlets in the oil and fry on medium heat until they are golden brown
Serve hot with chutney or sauce