After having defeated the Aztecs with a fusion of horses, steel, smallpox, and a stunning lack of moral conscience, the Spanish conquistadors wasted no time outlawing amaranth, a grain which constituted most of the Aztec diet at the time. Known to gardeners and farmers these days as pigweed, amaranth has obviously continued to flourish in spite of that military decree.
There are 70 recognized amaranth species, several of which are grown commercially from Mexico south to northern Peru. It is a very nutritious grain, high in protein, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and selenium, and is eaten roasted or cooked in water. When young, its leaves can be used as a cooked green much like spinach. Amaranth is also grown ornamentally, with a number of varieties available with red, purple, or yellow flower spikes. » Continue Reading.