Amaranth as Food
In traditional societies, the roots, stalks, leaves and seeds of amaranth are valued as medicine and food.
In the West, we are only familiar with its tiny seeds that are cooked like rice, or ground into flour for baking.
The seeds are an extremely valuable source of protein and have a cholesterol-lowering effect. The leaves are a good source of vitamins C and A, calcium, iron, and folate. The leaves are surprisingly high in protein. Their iron content is high, and increases as the plant matures and goes to flower.
Typically, the young, tender leaves are used in salad or cooked meals. The tenderer stems and stalks can be cooked as a vegetable, too. The iron-rich older leaves, too, can be cooked and are quite enjoyable.
Leaves, stems and stalks can be boiled, steamed and stir-fried, and used in stews or soup.
Cultural food as a galactagogue
The Warlis, an indigenous tribe of India whose culture extends back to 2500 B.C.E., chew the fresh roots of amaranth to increase milk production.[i]
Another tribe, the Kerala, prepare a watery concoction (soup or broth) of the whole plant to help mothers prepare for and heal from childbirth.[ii]
In many traditional Indian societies, the tender young shoots and leaves are eaten as a vegetable to increase milk supply.[iii]
An older woman from Peru recounted for me that mothers would drink the extra “cooking water” from amaranth or quinoa to support lactation – they drank the broth.
This blogpost describes a traditional, cultural food that is used to support milk supply, and that can easily be grown both outside in a container or inside as microgreens on a counter or windowsill. See A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues to learn more about cultural foods used to support milk supply that you can grow at home.
[i] Sayed, N. Z., Doe, R., & Mukundan, U. (2007). Herbal remedies used by Warlis of Dahanu to induce lactation in nursing mothers. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 6(4), 602-605.
[ii] Rajith, & Kunju, Navas & Thaha, & Manju, & Anish, & Rajasekharan, & George, Varughese. (2010). A study on traditional mother care plants of rural communities of South Kerala. Indian journal of traditional knowledge. 9. 203-208.
[iii] Karnam Chandrashekhar, A Review on Tanduliyaka (Amaranthus spinosus L) – A Weed, A Vegetable and A Medicinal Plant International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine Vol 9 No 4 (2018): October – December 2018