Kañiwa and amaranth are two ancient grains with some great modern-day and healthy applications
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Amaranth and kiñiwa are two ancient herbs that are gaining popularity on the American table. They are considered superfoods for their nutrient value. The plants grow to a height of three to six feet and produced abundant quantities of seeds which cooked as grains.

Hey, ladies and gents! Looking for something that will keep your hair from turning gray? It could be as simple as adding amaranth to your diet!

Well, that's what I read on the World Wide Web, but further research did not substantiate the claim.

What I could verify is that amaranth and its near cousin, kañiwa, are definitely foods we should consider including in our diet to improve our heart health.

These are superfoods - mini morsels packed with protein (16 percent more than similar grains!), fiber, vitamins and minerals. And the added bonus is they are gluten free.

Kañiwa (pronounced ka-nyi-wa) and amaranth have been cultivated for thousands of years throughout the world's tropical zones. The plants are actually herbs and can grow three to six feet tall.

Historically, the grains were cultivated by indigenous people in rural areas as the plants are easily harvested, produce lots of fruit and thus seeds, which are used as grain, and are highly tolerant of arid environments. Scientists today believe the foods have the potential to improve nutrition and boost food security worldwide.

All parts of the plants are edible; leaves, stems, roots and seeds. Kañiwa and amaranth are pseudograins; they have broad leaves, unlike the true grains and corn, which are grasses. Their leaves are among the most nutritional of vegetable greens, but it is their fruit that is usually eaten.

Several studies indicate that amaranth seeds or oil may be beneficial in reducing hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant levels. While the active ingredient in oats, another cholesterol reducer, appears to be a water-soluble fiber, amaranth appears to lower cholesterol via its content of plant stanols and squalene.

Stanol is a chemical compound known to reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in blood when ingested. The starting material is sterols from plants.

Squalene is a natural organic compound originally obtained for commercial purposes primarily from shark liver oil, though plant sources (primarily vegetable oils) are used as well, including amaranth seed.

These are ancient grains that haven't become household staples for us, yet. The people at Roland Foods have been importing the seeds from Peru and hope we will try them.

They sent me packages of amaranth and kañiwa and I made the recipes below to share with our office staff. Both seeds cook quickly and produce interesting and delicious dishes. We gave them a 'four fork' rating and many said they would purchase these seeds for their family to eat.

But don't take our word for it. Try these recipes yourself. Look for the Roland brand on your grocer's shelf or in the bulk food department.

And what about the claim that eating amaranth could keep your hair from turning gray? It must come from the high levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Can't hurt to try!

Bon Appetit! Eat something interesting!

Roland Amaranth Wild Mushroom Risotto

Makes 4 servings

2 cups Roland amaranth

4 2/3 cups chicken stock

4 tablespoons Roland extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

¾ cup dried Roland wild mushrooms

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Roland sea salt

fresh ground black pepper

Steep the mushrooms in one cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain, chop and set aside. In a covered medium saucepan, bring the amaranth and chicken stock to a boil, then turn heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir to prevent sticking to the pan.

While simmering, sauté the onion with olive oil and butter in a large pan until translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until mushrooms are tender.

When the amaranth is ready, add the mushroom mixture and Parmesan, and fold gently to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

Roland Foods

Roland Kañiwa Lemon Mint Tabouli Style Salad

Makes 4 servings

1 cup of Roland kañiwa

2 cups water (stock or milk can be used for extra flavor)

1 cup parsley, chopped

½ cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup Roland extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon Roland Sea Salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add rinsed kañiwa and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Stir frequently to prevent sticking. You will know when kañiwa is done when spiral-like germ becomes visible. Remove from heat and let the kañiwa stand, covered, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, green onions, parsley and mint. Add kañiwa and toss lightly. Garnish with fresh lemon zest and slivers of jicama.

Roland Foods


A five-ingredient entrée ready in 30 minutes or less.

Cayenne Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cayenne, rub all over chicken.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, about 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, fold avocado chunks into onion mixture; season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken topped with salsa.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 503-635-8811.

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