Best "Forbidden" Grain (2011)


Amaranth is one of the indigenous staples of Mesoamerica, but here in Phoenix, we looked high and low for creative uses of the 8,000-year-old Mexican grain and came away disappointed. Spaniards outlawed the cultivation and consumption of amaranth because the Aztecs used it in ceremonies worshipping "false idols" not recognized by the Catholic Church. Despite being sustainable, very high in nutrition, and easily cultivated, it all but dropped off the radar in Mexico (and here in the States) as a result of Spanish invasion. It's making a slow comeback. The ancient grain is getting a nuevo makeover among (health) foodies. Amaranth seeds are showing up in health food stores like Whole Foods, and the greens of the amaranth plant can sometimes be found at local farmers markets, but culinary aficionados in PHX are lagging behind the trend. Where's the alegría (popped amaranth honey bars)? Or amaranth greens stewed with calabacitas? And it lends itself perfectly to gluten-free creations that don't taste like bark. Quinoa's had its day. We want to usher in the age of amaranth!


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