Amaranth has a farming history 7,000 years strong; as long as humans have practiced agriculture. The grain boasts the highest protien content of any plant; edible greens packed with minerals like iron, calcium, magnesioum, phospohorus, potassium, zinc, copper, maganese and vitimins A, K, B6, and C; high fiber without the gluten; a root structure that farms nutrients from deep in the Earth making minerals available to other plants while beneficial insects buzz around it's bountiful buds. Amaranth growns on every continent and was a staple for Incas, Aztecs, and many Native people from Mexico, Africa, and India.
I know the plant is something special as I watched student gardeners get to know amaranth in garden class over the past few weeks. Kids worked together to harvest branches of the head high plants. We brought the stocks to a big white sheet for shucking. Fifth and sixth graders became mesmorized by the intricate plants from the moment they started investigating seed pods. We found beetles burrowed in the stalk and discovered that those beetles are ground beetles that eat insect pests.
Boys famous for their kalohe (rascal) antics were quiet as library angels as they used their breath to remove the chaffe from the salt grain-sized seeds. After removing the chaffe, we used the shiny black seeds to make an ancient recipe called Alegria. Alegria is a hard candy made sold by street vendors in Mexico and India. It entails the exciting exercise of toasting amaranth seeds until they explode like popcorn, combining the seeds with a toasted seed/nut like sunflower seeds or macadamia nut, and boiling maple syrup. Combing the three results in a delightful candy with a powerful vitimin, mineral, and protien punch. The kids were bubbling in learning that a "candy" can be a healthy pre-surf/basketball/dancing snack.
I could feel the presence of 7,000 years of bountiful gardening as the children responded to amaranth with absolute glee. The alegria put them in the clouds and me in a positive state of self awareness. I never tire of how amazed children are to participate in the cycle of growing/harvesting/cooking/eating. Two girls stalked me during their lunch recess until I had the free hands to sit and write the recipe down.
No wonder: alegria means joy.
To make alegria: (From Amanda Rieux and Mala'ai quoting Patricia Wood's Splendid Grains, pg 77)
1/3 cup agave syrup, rice syrup, maple syrup, or honey
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds (or mac nuts)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups popped Amaranth
To pop amaranth: Heat large wok or saucepan (not cast iron) with low sides over high heat. Once hot, pour in about 1/4 cup (white works best) amaranth seeds and stir constantly until most have popped and the others have turned a few shades of brown. Remove quickly form pan to avoid burning, repeat. This is a great thing to cook outside because the little buggers pop all over the place. Have the amaranth popped before you start the rest.
Lightly grease 8" square cake pan, set aside. Put the syrup or honey in a sauce pan over high heat and bring to soft boil, boil for about 10 minutes or until the syrup is 224' F. Remove from heat - stir in sf seeds and cinnamon, then stir in the popped amaranth just enough to coat. Press into the pan and let cool somewhat, cut into 2" spares.
Eat and enjoy basking in the history
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.