Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Things to do in Mexico when you're hungry #8 Amaranto

Mexican food is not just about tacos and hot salsas.  The aim of this series is to introduce my readers to the amazing variety that Mexican cuisine has to offer and open your eyes (and appetites) to some of the dishes and foods that are not so well-known outside of Mexico.

In fact, Mexico can boast various native "superfoods" - I've already written about one of them; to find out more, read my post about nopales .  Another Mexican superfood comes into the grains category, although it's not strictly a cereal as it belongs to a different plant species.  However, it is used as a cereal and has a similar set of nutrients to other cereals, although with some pretty special characteristics which I'll go into more detail about below.

Things to do in Mexico when you're hungry #8 Amaranto


Amaranto, or amaranth in English, is often termed an "ancestral" or ancient grain as it was an important crop for the Aztecs in prehispanic times, as food and also as part of their religious ceremonies.  The amaranth grain was mixed with honey and formed into images of Aztec deities, then later broken into pieces and shared out to be eaten.  Echoes of this practice can be found today on a smaller scale in the Day of the Dead celebrations.  Little skulls made from amaranth and honey are definitely a healthier alternative to the more common sugar and chocolate skulls that are seen everywhere during the festivities.

These days, in Mexico at least, you can easily find amaranto inflado, or popped amaranth (like popcorn but much, much tinier!) in supermarkets, health food shops, snack kiosks and even at the local greengrocers.  I haven't seen unpopped grains at all, although I admit I haven't looked for them.

Amaranth
Teeny-tiny popped amaranth grains 

Amaranth is usually eaten for breakfast; mixed with granola or other cereals, sprinkled on yoghurt or fruit or added to a smoothie.  The popped grains can be plain or flavored with honey, chocolate or vanilla (with added sugar) and it's also very common in the form of a bar, held together with honey or sugar and perhaps with raisins, seeds or nuts, too.  You can also find it in cookies and muffins and, if you want to try something a bit different, there are some more unusual recipes, both sweet and savoury, with amaranth - how about Amaranth RisottoGluten-free banana bread or Cannellini bean and amaranth soup?

Nutritional Value of Amaranth 
  • It is gluten-free
  • Unlike other grains, it is a complete protein
  • It can reduce cholesterol 
  • It has more than three times the average amount of calcium 
  • It's high in iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus 
  • It's apparently the only grain to contain vitamin C
Take a look at this infographic of the nutritional properties of amaranth compared with other grains (from 5AM).

Incidentally, earlier today I gave Emma some plain popped amaranth after her dinner which she was eating dry with a spoon and twice asked for more - she loves it!

Sources and links to recipes and other information:


Epicurious.com

TheKitchn.com

5-am.co for the environmental benefits of amaranth

Allrecipes.com

I confess I haven't tried any of the recipes mentioned here, I've only mixed amaranth in with breakfast oats or other cereal, and with fruit.  I'll give you an update when I try something a bit more adventurous!  Let me know if you try any of these recipes or know of another featuring this ancient grain  - I'd love to read about your experiences and all your opinions are welcome!

Seychelles Mama

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Mummy in a Tutu

14 comments:

  1. Great post. I keep hearing about amaranth and saw a bag of the popped in a health food shop a while back so bought some to try. I've only tried it in one recipe so far, adding it to popped brown rice, brown rice syrup, dried sour cherries, macadamia nuts and I think pecans - making them into snack bars/rice crispy cakes. Tasty! Will have to try out some of the other amaranth recipes! x

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  2. Wow, I've never heard of amaranth before. I'm going to have to look for it!

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  3. Wow, I've never heard of amaranth before. I'm going to have to look for it!

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  4. Never heard of it before but it sounds really interesting.

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  5. This sounds amazing, I wonder why its not more commercially available worldwide? Thanks for linking up with #myexpatfamily you know I always love your foodie posts yum yum!!!

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  6. That's amazing! So informative to...although the whole way through I couldn't help but think of my child...whose middle name is Amaranth! #kcacols

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  7. Sounds amazing - and gluten free too? I'm sold! #KCACOLS

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  8. I'm going to have to seek this stuff out! #KCACOLS

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  9. Never heard of this, but it is now on my to hunt down list! #KCACOLS

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  10. Very intrigued! Aramanth sounds vaguely familiar... but now that I've moved from Tucson to Dublin, it may be a wait before I can investigate it further. Will definitely scout my local shops though. Great post! :)

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  11. Wow I've never heard of amaranth before but it sounds like a great alternative to popcorn (which my youngest loves) and also to granola to go in yoghurt too!

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday xxx

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  12. I've never actually heard of this so thanks for sharing your knowledge! The fact your daughter loves it can only be a positive sign that it's also pretty tasty as well as healthy! #bigpinklink

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  13. I've not heard amaranth before but I love the idea of tiny popcorn going to see if I can locate some locally to me
    Thank you for linking up to #foodiefriday

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  14. Oooo exciting! Never knew this!!
    Thanks for linking to #foodiefriday

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