For our oblivion we’re in debt to Peter the Great, who forbade growing amaranth and making bread from it. This reform finally destroyed the longevity of the Slavs once and for all. According to legends, elders lived a very long time; there are even mentions of about three hundred years.
Meanwhile, this valuable plant has been used in Russia since the dawn of time. Our ancestors used to make flour and bake bread from the seeds. Since ancient times the healing power of amaranth was also recognised.
In Slavonic medicine, it was mainly known as a tool against ageing. Its name tells us a lot: Mara (or Marena) in Slavonic mythology means ‘Venus of death’ and winter, the prefix “a” in Russian signifies negation, for example, “moralny” (moral) and “amoralniy” (amoral).
This plant was respected by the ancient nations of Central America – the Incas and the Aztecs. Ancient Etruscans and Hellenes considered it as a symbol of immortality. It’s amazing that amaranth inflorescence never fades. An interesting fact about the economical meaning of this plant for the last Aztec empire under the running of Montesum II (XVI century A.D.) is that the emperor received 9 thousand tons of amaranth as tax.
In our country the study and introduction of amaranth in agriculture was started by the Russian scientist and academic Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov in the 1930s. However, all his research was stopped and almost forgotten after his death. Only since the 1960s, has this work been continued by Professor Ishan Magomedovich Magomedov of Saint-Petersburg University. He has recommended growing amaranth and created the European Association Amaranth.
This culture attracts modern scientists through its record quantity of protein (14-16%) and very high level of vitamins and mineral salts. Amaranth seed oil contains phytosterol and squalen, along with other ingredients which are important to people.
Phytosterol noticeably reduces the level of cholesterol in blood. Squalen is a substance which captures oxygen and the saturations of our tissues and organs. It has very a powerful antineoplastic action and is the strongest immunostimulant. Squalen gets into the body lightly through the skin, influencing the whole organism and has unique properties, which easily combat with the majority of skin diseases.
Amaranth has been unfairly forgotten by previous generations, however, justice is reestablishing itself: nowadays people bake bread with the seeds of this plant, make oil out of it, along with cereals and flour, add its leaves to salads, omelets and baked puddings. The uniqueness of amaranth lies in its unusually high nutritious value and the edibility of all its parts: the stalks, leaves and seeds.
The UN Food Commission has recognized the nutritional and medicinal value of amaranth in the 20th century.
Text: Alina Sugakova-Romanova. Translation: Margarita Maslova. Photo: Fotolia
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