Amaranth (Amaranthus) is a family of plants considered to be weeds, but many around the world value it as leaf vegetables, cereals, and an ornamental plant. Presently there are over 60 recognized species, with foliage ranging from purple to red to gold.
Several species are raised for grain, as amaranth is gluten free and easy to cook (its leaves can be used for stirfry and the seeds can be toasted like popcorn). Nutritionally, the seeds are a very good source of protein, containing about 30% more than cereals such as rice or rye. Amaranth is also compettiive with wheat and oats in other nutritional values, known for its calcium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin E (USDA report). Amaranth is also rich in essential amino acid lysine, but is limiting in leucine and threonine compared to other grains (Grain Amaranth report).
Amaranth is a very inexpensive and fast growing crop that can be easily cultivated. It is extremely hardy--tolerable of arid environments and requires little to no maintenance to grow.
Quinoa is a specific species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) of the Amaranth family, one of the most popular Amaranth Crops. The Incas held this crop to be sacred, and referred to it as the "mother of all grains," and the emperor would sow the first seeds during each growing season. During the European invasion of South America, Spanish colonists suppressed quinoa for cultivation, scorning derogatively as food for savages.
Quinoa has a light fluffy texture when cooked, and has a mild nutty flavor making it a great gluten-free alternative to rice or couscous.
Quinoa grow to about 1-2 meters high, and is a flowering annual plant. It is undemanding, altitude-hardy, and stand a temperature range of 25-95F, doing best in sandy well drained soils with low nutrient content, moderate salinity, and pH of 6-8.5.
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