Today we will talk about the history of amaranth – this is an interesting topic that contains many secrets and mysteries. In this article we will explain the whole truth and dispel the popular myth that is common among fans of the ancient culture. What is a myth? Read about it below.
In the material we will rely, first of all, on the research of Latin American scientists. After all, it was there that long since it was decided to use amaranth when cooking. And not only!
The history of amaranth: rooted in antiquity
The modern name of the plant – amaranth – is derived from the Greek word “immortal” or “unfading”. However, this does not mean that it grew in Greece. Amaranth history
In fact, the plant has long been cultivated in the Americas. And here was one of the oldest known food crops. Collectors and hunters of North and South America actively grew amaranth in many regions. It was used in cooking along with such familiar products of modern people as:
- zucchini etc.
The archaeological samples of amaranth grain found near the Mexican town of Tehuacan, Puebla, date back to about 4000 BC.
Historical data show that amaranth was eaten in the form of cereals in the Aztecs and Mayans. It was the Mayan civilization, probably one of the first to use amaranth as a high-yielding crop, while the Aztecs and Incas who lived in Peru did not immediately recognize the importance of this plant!
Amaranth in religious ceremonies
Anthropological studies prove that amaranth was widely used in various religious rites. The plants were inextricably linked with the ancient rituals conducted by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.
For example, during religious holidays, Aztec women took amaranth seeds, stained them in blood red, mixed with honey, molasses or human blood (obtained during sacrifices) and molded statues of their deities and idols from the mass. The history of amaranth sacrifice
After the ceremonies, these statues were divided into many small parts – they were distributed to all members of the tribe and eaten.
Religion was the reason why the Spanish conquistadors led by Cortes (it happened in 1519) that invaded Latin America began to destroy amaranth crops. The Spaniards wanted to convert the Indians to Catholicism and believed that it was the destruction of the amaranth from which the sculptures of the deities were created that would help the aborigines to repudiate their faith.
Cortez strictly forbade the cultivation of amaranth, ordered that crops be burned or destroyed. It was also indicated that according to which a person convicted of cultivating amaranth, it was necessary to chop off his hands.
Growing amaranth before the invasion of the Spaniards
According to the researcher, scientist Vargas Lopez, evidence was found that prior to the appearance of the conquistadors, the Aztecs received up to several tens of tons of grain of this plant each year. In terms of yield, amaranth ranked third after legumes and maize.
More than 5,000 hectares of land were sown by the Aztec Amaranth. The farmers of that time in 20 provinces presented an enormous amount of tribute from amaranth grain to their king Moktesum, in his palace in Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. Inca
Thus, it is safe to say that at that time amaranth was a really important plant for the Aztecs and the Incas. And not only for religious ceremonies. The plant, the grain derived from it, was actively used for the preparation of nutritious dishes.
Growing amaranth drastically decreased after 1577, and was virtually forgotten until 1890. However, it was during this period that the plant was brought to other continents, where it was planted in gardens as decorative flowers.
In Latin America in recent decades, amaranth has also not been grown – only in some mountain villages, farmers cultivated it for their own purposes.
Now they remembered the plant again. It is actively planted in many regions, parts of our planet. That is caused by improbable properties – it contains a large number of various useful substances that have a beneficial effect on the human body.
In particular, it was found that it is excellent in treating a number of diseases, including diabetes. Studies are being conducted on the use of plant products for treatment and prevention: Amaranth Indians
- cardiovascular diseases;
- diseases of the digestive system, etc.
Currently, amaranth in Mexico is grown in the states of Guerrero, Mexico City, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Michoacan, Oaxaca, and some others. It is used in the confectionery, food industry, in the manufacture of dietary products and has great potential in the production of oils, starches and proteins.
Amaranth remains important in traditional agriculture, but some of its species are threatened with extinction.
Amaranth sowing areas in Mexico in 2012 amounted to 3,336 hectares with a production of 4,278 tons.
Amaranth and Peter I Myths
And now it is time to debunk the myth of Peter I, who allegedly banned the cultivation of amaranth. The same myth asserts that plants grew on the territory of Russia (and this is both modern Ukraine and Russia) and in deep antiquity.
However, no documentary evidence of these allegations is present. Especially, given the fact that before the conquest of Latin America conquered amaranth on the amaranth in general, there are no intelligent, imputed information.
Therefore, we dare to suggest that myths appeared from the pen of “writers” who decided to give the plant a special value. And, taking into account the real history of the plant and its ban Cortes, “projected” the real events on Peter I and Russia. Simply changing the characters – that is, using the terminology of television scriptwriters, adapted the story for local characteristics.
Supporters of the myth, in turn, argue that their assertion is quite reasonable. Since supposedly archaeologists have found amaranth seeds at the sites of the primitive man of the late Paleolithic era. These sites are located near Voronezh. And their age ranges from 10 to 30 thousand years.
None of the fans of the myth can explain how these sites are connected with Peter I and why there are no official mentions in the history of the ban of the king to grow a plant.
Therefore, taking into account the above, it can be assumed that amaranth did indeed grow in antiquity on the territory of former Russia, however, because it was no longer cultivated, for whatever reason, it is unknown to science. But it appeared in our area only a few thousand years later and was brought from Latin America. More on this – below!
The real story of amaranth in our area
Now let’s touch the official story. She also refutes the myth of the ban of Peter I. So, officially this plant appeared in our area only … Nikolay Vavilov in 1930, after academician N. I. Vavilov visited Mexico, got acquainted with amaranth and decided not only to study its properties, but and spread it.
However, no significant results were achieved. Yes, amaranth was grown here and there, and its active cultivation began only in the 90s of the last century.
Before the Mexican voyage of Vavilov in Ukraine and in Russia they did not hear about amaranth – only the schirits were known. And this is a wild variety of plants. Rather, even a weed, which gardeners are fighting.
However, it has long been used for feeding livestock. Animals – cattle, pigs – are very fond of shiritsu. For people, it does not represent any interest – it is not food, the value and close to incomparable with the value of this amaranth.
History is a fascinating subject. It allows you to understand a lot, learn interesting information and facts. However, it is important to operate with really real information, and not rely on myths that do not have official confirmation. For example, as in the case of a mysterious and unreasonable story with Peter the Great.
But it is safe to say that amaranth was indeed very important in the culture of the ancient Indians, who built amazing Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations even for our time.