GRAIN AMARANTH (Amaranthus spp.)

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Mowa (Sh), Imbuya (N)

Amaranths are annual herbs. They comprise about 70 species, including 3 grain amaranths. In Zimbabwe, we know the amaranth plant for its edible leaves, but in many parts of the world it is better known for its edible grain seeds.

Grain amaranth is easy to grow, easy to harvest and easy to cook. It is gluten-free and a protein powerhouse.


Where it does well:
Grain amaranth does well under conditions ideal for maize, but can be grown in semi-arid areas where it tolerates full sun, drought, high temperatures and low soil fertility. It is therefore an excellent crop for smallholders in Zimbabwe.

Planting  – Harvesting time:
Grain amaranth is grown during the rainy season and can be intercropped with traditional field crops. It matures in 3 months. Tender leaves can be harvested at 2-3 weeks interval till the end of the season.

Average yield per ha:
The yield of grain amaranth is comparable to maize: 500-1,200 kg/ha.

Amaranth is gluten-free. It contains more magnesium, iron and fibre than other gluten-free grains; and is second only to teff in calcium content.

  • The amount, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins. Food scientists consider the protein content of amaranth similar to milk.
  • It is a great source of poly-unsaturated oils.
  • It has cholesterol and blood pressure reducing properties, and boosts the immune system.

The leaves are eaten as a vegetable.

Much of the grain currently grown is bought by health food junkies. The grains can be utilised in several ways: cooked, ground into flour, and popped. Cooked grains can be eaten as a healthy starch alternative or added to soups and stews as a nutritious thickening agent. Popped grain can be used in confectionary or added to breakfast cereal. The flour can be used to prepare porridge, pizza, pasta, pancakes, added to maize meal or combined with other flours (as it has no gluten) for baking.

(Dried) amaranth leaves are sold in some (super)markets.

Until 2014, there was no known formal trade in the grain in Zimbabwe. Raw and toasted grain, popped grain and flour are now available. Given the nutritional value of grain amaranth and the increased health consciousness of Zimbabweans, it is well-received. Post-harvest handling (grit among the grain) still requires some attention.


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