Amaranth Plant as a Food



In the past, cereal Amaranth was one of the most important food types. They were consumed in much the same way as maize and beans. On average, the seeds of burdock contain 15-17% protein, 5-8% fat, and 3.7-5.7% fiber, which is much higher than in other brassica cereals. For example, maize contains 10-12.6% protein, 4.6-6.7% fat; rice and wheat contain 8.0 and 9.0-14.0% protein and 1.1 and 1.1-3.4% fat respectively. The amino acid lysine, which is essential for human nutrition, is twice as abundant in barley as in wheat and 3 times as abundant as in maize and sorghum and is equivalent to soy and cow’s milk. Lysine is an essential amino acid that is not synthesized in animals and humans. It is obtained by humans and animals from plants in the diet. In terms of protein quality, Amaranth is the closest to the theoretically calculated ideal protein, and in terms of amino acid balance, it is comparable to breast milk. If the ideal protein (close to egg white) is given a score of 100, then milk protein (casein) will have a score of 72, soya 68, wheat 58, maize 44, and Amaranth 75. In terms of fiber, Amaranth is ahead of oats. In addition, burdock contains more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium than milk and five times more calcium and twice as much iron as wheat.

Amaranth, unlike many other cereals, is virtually free of glutens, which cause allergies in many consumers. Even a small addition of Amaranth flour significantly improves the quality and baking value of wheat flour. In recent years, a wide variety of baked goods, pasta, bread, crackers, chocolate, sweets, healthy seeds, and other foods have become available in health food stores in many foreign countries. At least some of these could be available in our country too. There is an urgent need to develop a consumer, and it is not a problem to grow seeds or even import them.


The starch in the grain of the Amaranth, like that of the Bolivian pigeonpea (Chenopodium quinoa), consists of microcrystalline starch granules 1-3 mm in diameter (10 times finer than that of maize), with a very high degree of swelling. It is a very potential product for the food and technical industries. Perhaps the most valuable part of the seeds is the oil. The seeds contain 6-10% of this oil. 76% of this oil consists of unsaturated acids, which are essential for human nutrition. The most valuable part of this oil is squalene, which accounts for about 7%, much higher than in other oils. Squalene is a very valuable and expensive product, mainly derived from shark liver.

In Peru and some other South American countries, the fermented seeds of the Amaranth are used to make Amaranth chicha or beer, and the dried stalks are used for fuel. In the US, over 40 names of Amaranth-based foods are already available in health food stores. Many foods made from Amaranth are already available in Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavian countries, and the Czech Republic.

Salad (leaf) Amaranth are very popular and widespread in China, India, and some African countries. Here they are used as spinach for food. The most widespread is the tricolour (A. tricolor L.).

The nutritional value of 150-200 g of Amaranth leaves is equivalent to 1 kg of tomatoes or cucumbers. The leaves contain up to 3,5 % protein, 0,25 % fat, 6,6 % carbohydrate and 3,1 % ash. A 100 g of leaves contain about 24 mg of iron, 464 mg of calcium, and other minerals, and are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and beta carotene. Vitamin C and carotene are found in the leaves of borage at 68 mg and 5,7 mg per 100 g of green weight respectively. Only onions (35-95 mg), horseradish (98-153 mg), celery (18180 mg), parsley (58-290 mg) and spinach (37-178 mg) have more vitamin C.

Only young leaves should be cut for food before they start to produce flower stalks. Later they are hard, rough, and unpalatable. It is prepared like spinach and eaten raw, cooked, or fried. The green leaves are used to make salads, as a garnish for fish and meat dishes, and add a special flavor to sauces and soups. They can be dried in the winter for salads and are best used 30-50 days after germination. It is not advisable to consume a lot of leaves, as borage can accumulate a lot of nitrates and oxalates (no more than lettuce or spinach). Oxalates account for 0,2-11,4% of the dry matter of the leaves. They can bind calcium, thus reducing the concentration of calcium ions in the blood and causing hypocalcemia. Toxigenic levels of oxalates can be significantly reduced by stewing or boiling the leaves for 10 minutes. The nutritional value is almost unchanged. The Japanese highly value the nutritional and taste qualities of Amaranth, liken it to squid meat or fish, and recommend it for frequent consumption.

Amaranth is consumed by people in many countries around the world. It is not for nothing that spinach is known as African, Indian, and Chinese spinach in various countries. Spinach is a staple in the daily diet of people in Latin America, Africa, and South-East Asia. In some countries, Amaranth has already become a commercial product. In many European countries, health food shops sell products made from burdock seeds and packed in 0,5 kg packages. Burdock seeds are mostly imported from Peru, Chile, Mexico, and some other countries. Some private entrepreneurs from Lithuania have tried and are trying to import them. Unfortunately, the lack of tradition, lack of advertising and the price (1 kg of Amaranth seeds costs up to LTL 20) have hampered the consumption of these valuable dietary products in the country. In the USA, over 100 products can be bought in shops, either made from Amaranth or with its additives: meat, oil, starch, seeds, etc. Vegetarians there are treated to Amaranth “meat”.

Amaranth seeds in a bowl
Amaranth seeds in a bowl

Burdock plant proteins are industrially produced as white powder. The protein, made from seeds and leaves, is not only well absorbed by the body but also improves the absorption of other foods. Some scientists believe that humanity is experiencing a protein deficiency because of the lack of widespread cultivation and use of brassicas.

The seeds of the borage have a nutty taste and are used in the production of bread, cakes, pasta, and other products. The addition of burdock flour (in varying proportions) to wheat flour not only improves the palatability but also the nutritional value. Amaranth flour is used for cooking porridges, baking cakes, pastries, and soft drinks. Technologists are already proposing recipes for sour cream, kefir, and yogurts made with Amaranth flour. Many people like roasted borage seeds. They are as good as corn chips. Burdock seeds can replace poppy seeds in baked goods.

The leaves and young stems of borage can be stewed, blanched, boiled, frozen, canned, or dried. Burdock salad is a source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, and many trace elements.

Amaranth is a valuable, easy to grow, and very tasty meat substitute. It is a real vegetarian delicacy!

They are most often used like spinach: slightly cooked (5-7 minutes), sautéed with butter, and used as a garnish. It is particularly valuable when cooked with cheese, brinza, in scrambled eggs, soups, and other salads. Amaranthare is very tasty and valuable as cold borscht and borsch in early spring when the body is deficient in vitamins.

Cucumbers can be canned by adding borage leaves to the marinade, which makes the cucumbers firm, crisp and tasty. The sprouted seeds of borage are also very valuable.

N. Stogova, a well-known Russian diviner and author of many books on phytotherapy, points out that the weed that many of us do not like, the rough Amaranth, is almost as valuable as many cultivated species and varieties of Amaranth, and can be used for food, fodder, and medicine. It can be cut several times for salads, as it is a fast resprouter. Stogova states that burdock has a ‘universal’ taste and aroma and has virtually no contraindications.

The use of bay leaves, flowers, and seeds in culinary applications should be guided by intuition and taste. Cooking is a creative process and we can all make original, unusual, tasty, and very rewarding dishes.

Young borage leaves can be eaten raw, while older ones should be steamed, blanched, and stewed.

Salted borage leaves and stems should be thawed and squeezed before use to avoid too much liquid. The unwashed green mass of borage can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in a towel, for up to 2 days; it must be washed clean before use. Before cooking, the leaves of fresh borage should be scraped off, chopped, chopped, placed in a pot and boiled for a few minutes, stirring a couple of times, covered with a lid (no need to add water, just the moisture left after washing the leaves is enough). Drain the resulting mixture (either through a sieve or by squeezing between two plates).

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