amaranthI knew it when I saw it sprinkled all over the baked goodies at my favorite Parisian-style bakery. Amaranth is having a moment. Amaranth is one of those so-called "ancient grains" that have become trendy lately, in the wake of quinoa's success. Just a couple short years ago I was searching for it in vain. Now it's all over the place -- even on my damn croissants! So what's the hype all about? Here's why you may want to give amaranth a chance.

Amaranth is a grain originating from Mesoamerica. It was THE food staple for the ancient Aztecs. It's related to the ornamental plant celosia (cock's comb) and grows quickly. You may have seen it growing wild and thought it was a weed. But nope! Because of how easy it is to grow and harvest, it's considered the grain of the future.

The seeds (the part we eat) are exceptionally high in protein for a grain, especially the amino acid lysine, which is similar to the protein in milk. Amaranth seeds can be ground into a gluten-free flour (that's explains part of its popularity). Amaranth is also very high in iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. And it's generally considered easy to digest. Honestly, I don't know why I'm not eating it right now.

Here's what you can do with this super grain.

Toasted: You can "pop" amaranth seeds kind of the same way you'd pop popcorn. Then you can toss them over salads, in cereal, over baked goodies, in granola, or just pop right in your mouth.

Pilaf: Cook with spices and vegetables to make an amaranth pilaf.

In a sauce: The seeds and the leaves go into the sauce for this Mexican chicken recipe

Bread: You can bake cornbread with the seeds. Or you can use the flour for all kinds of recipes, like these chocolate zucchini amaranth muffins.

Pudding: High in protein means you can turn the seeds into a solid pudding, like this coconut amaranth pudding.

Have you tried amaranth in anything yet?

 

Image via John Lambert Pearson/Flickr