Amaranth more and more residents of many Latin American countries include in their diet. Which once again confirms the words about its excellent dietary and nutritional properties. So you can see this, we suggest you read the next article on this topic.
She was prepared for the site AljazeeraAmerica by Kate Kilpatrick journalist and photographer Benedict Desras.
Alegrías – sweet, originally from Santiago Tulehualco
In a small province, not far from Mexico, Alegrías has been prepared for many years (in translation, Joy). For this, amaranth seeds are used, mixed with peanuts, raisins and various flavors – coconut, chocolate, mint, strawberries and many others.
It is difficult to compare the sweetness with its true culinary history. Indeed, as the ancient legends say, the Aztecs used amaranth seeds for sacrifices. They mixed the seeds with honey and made of them statues of the gods, which were then broken and eaten by the Indians. It was a kind of Holy Communion.
Santiago Tulejualco, a rural community near Mexico City, is famous for its amaranth snacks.
In addition to the alegrías already mentioned, these are small sweets in the shape of a hockey puck, called ruedas, crispy cakes and moist muffins, and many other desserts.
“This is part of the Mexican culture, because the Aztecs ate amaranth along with beans, corn, and chias. It was part of their main diet, ”says 35-year-old KARINA MARTINEZ DE LA ROSA, who is already the third generation of her family, making amaranth snacks. Its products are in great demand among locals and visitors to the province. Sweets are sold at the Casahuates store, which are owned by her aunt and uncle.
In recent years, Mexico has won the dubious fame of one of the most “fat” countries in the world. Because of the widespread unhealthy diet – sweet soda and fast food filled the country, and Mexicans with a great desire to consume such food. One gets the feeling that the shops and restaurants of unhealthy food (“comida chatarra”) are simply endless and are found everywhere!
Despite this, food manufacturers from amaranth from Tulehualco adhere to their tradition, but at the same time introduce innovations to meet the needs of the Mexican market. Amaranth, in their opinion, is a great opportunity for Mexicans to restore traditional cuisine and their cultural identity.
Amaranth is one of the oldest food crops in the world. Archaeologists have found traces of this plant in the area of the city of Puebla, in Mexico, and found that these traces date back to about 4000 BC. Although it is believed that in fact the amaranth was in other regions of Central and South America. The plant was popular with the Aztecs, who called it huahtli. The amaranth was later banned by the Spaniards, since the Indians used it in religious rituals.
Studies have shown that it has anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties. It has a high level of protein content, as well as lysine (amino acids, absent in many other grains), as well as high levels of vitamin C and A.
Amaranth can be used as additional flour in tortillas, breads, cookies, pasta and marzipan. In addition, it is gluten-free.
“We think this is a super product,” said PIT NOLL, executive director of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (“Bridge for the Community”). This is a non-profit association from Oaxaca that works on food independence in rural communities in Mexico. The activities of the organization will avoid eating problems in the Mexican provinces.
He said that the high protein content of amaranth and low cost make it particularly promising for low-income communities that suffer from a “double burden” – a tendency to malnutrition at an early age, which in turn leads to a higher propensity for obesity in adulthood. “Amaranth is of paramount importance in the food crisis and the health crisis that engulfed Mexico,” he said.
While most products for sale in Tulehualco are snacks and seemingly not very healthy sweets (tabs, huars, biscuits, bombons, lunitas, charola, mueganos), amaranth fans say that the products are “healthy” and natural.
“The cultural aspect of a sweetness like Alegrías is a kind of entry point,” said Noll. “But if amaranth is used as a significant part of the diet, it should be used in healthy food, without adding sugar.”
In addition to the products sold, sellers of amaranth products at Tulehualco claim that they use grain at home in preparing virtually all products: from bread and cocktails to tuna salad, meatballs and stews. Amaranth-rich iron leaves can also be cooked as vegetables, and stalks can be fed to pets.
“In Mexico City, very few people know that amaranth can be used for cooking. And how delicious it is! ”Said MANUEL CASTILLO, the local amarantho.
Interestingly, today there are many who go to Tulehualco from Mexico City and neighboring cities such as Guadalajara and San Luis Potosi in order to purchase amaranth and its product, but still the grain is not familiar to most Mexicans in many other parts of the country.
FERNANDO MANSO RAMOS, a professor in sustainable agriculture, calls amaranth an “orphan” plant. According to him, no one cares about the plant and its integration into the food industry.
But those who produce, process and use amaranth for cooking – despite the lack of government subsidies aimed at supporting agriculture in this direction – believe that by doing so they protect local traditions.
Scientists claim that amaranth was originally sold only to the poorest families in Tulehualco. In the 1960s, these families could prepare Alegrías in their kitchens and sell sweets at festivals or markets to get money to pay for their needs — for example, teaching children in schools.
From the 1970s to the 1990s, in addition to their main work, many families were engaged in preparing amaranth snacks in small cafes. They carefully guarded their recipes.
In the end, many abandoned the main job and began to engage only in cooking from amaranth. The number of product varieties has increased, family stores have appeared to serve local retail customers and country wholesale customers, who have resold products to schools and offices.
As the demand for amaranth grew, families became more thoughtful in business and formed cooperatives that allowed them to finance business development — for example, buy new equipment, pay attention to sanitary and hygienic requirements, take part in local and federal development programs, collaborate with research and development institutions and non-profit organization.
“Most of the families in our city produce amaranth products,” says ROSA MARIA PEREZ, who, with her husband, Encarnacion de la Rosa, organized the Iztakaatl Amaranth cooperative, in which family members control the entire production process. “We plant it, grow it, collect it, and, naturally, we process it, too.”
With growing domestic demand for Alegrías and other amaranth sweets, entrepreneurs from Tulehualco use most of the amaranth grown by farmers in the nearby state of Tlaxcala. According to Peter Nolla, there are about 25,000 acres of amaranth fields in Mexico, which is enough to satisfy only local demand. But he is confident that soon the situation will change dramatically.
Amaranth manufacturers and processors work almost as a team to figure out how to enter new markets. In particular, to conquer the natural products market and how to start exporting organic amaranth seeds and flour.
However, many entrepreneurs Tulehualko involved in the preparation of products from amaranth, carefully preserve their recipes in order to keep them secret. As well as constantly working to come up with new products and beautifully present them.
“We have a lot of competition,” says ROSA MARIA PEREZ, “so we continue to innovate in order not to depend on just one recipe.” She said that her shop offers 35 to 40 kinds of sweets made from amaranth.
URIEL MOLOTLA recently developed a new product recipe. In the end, he got something like a crispy spicy french fries. For the preparation of this dish he used corn, wheat, amaranth, cactus and soy. All this mixed in certain proportions and fried in vegetable oil.
“In Mexico, there is now a very big problem with obesity. Thus, our main task is to make a kind of snack, but nutritious, ”says Uriel. By the way, his children are also engaged in this family business.
“Amaranth is a great way for our young people to see an opportunity for their personal and economic well-being. But the main thing is to feel satisfied with what you are doing. This is very important for each of us, ”said Molotla.
Other entrepreneurs from Tulehualco note how important what they are doing. After all, if the traditions of cooking food from amaranth are lost, then their hometown will also lose its original identity. All traditions come from the ancestors and the inhabitants of the city do not want them to be lost!