We already know well that Ukrainian products from the amaranth family are actively bought by European countries and, not least, China. Also around the world, this plant has great fame. Even the wild type of amaranth is still actively used for food in many African countries.
In a happy and unexpected way, last summer I met a foreign student who is studying at the medical university of our city. A cheerful and intelligent girl here in Ukraine found her love and was already preparing to become a mother. Lucy is very open and kind, knows 5 languages and is always ready to immerse herself with interest in a different cultural and social environment. Therefore, I learned from her about the views of the Rwandans on many things and events that are also close to us. The young republic, where she is from, is located in the temperate region of East Africa. In the second half of the 20th century, its inhabitants suffered from political instability and internal wars. But today Rwanda is developing quite rapidly in the economic aspect, primarily due to the hard work of the agrarians. And this part of the story is well understood by us Ukrainians. After all, in difficult times we subconsciously return to the crafts of our ancestors and receive from the earth not only its generous fruits, but also a renewed meaning of life.
Once, Lucy and I were walking not far from the house where she and her husband live – this is almost on the outskirts of the Dnieper. The new building had not yet organized flower beds and therefore was full of wild herbs, which we usually find in vegetable gardens or roadsides. The young woman pointed to the green leaves of the squid and began to tell what a useful plant it is. And in her homeland, the squid is prepared even for babies in the second half of their life. Since this greenery grew close to the highway, we did not dare to pick this healing tops in order to try an unusual dish of African cuisine. because, after all, for Lucia to prepare a snack from young amaranth, it was necessary to look for a more environmentally friendly place.
In the Kenirwanda language, amaranth sounds like imbwija. Oh, I was not immediately able to pronounce this sly word! Since they also study French and English in Rwanda, I immediately understood the meaning of the word that we know very well. This plant is called amarante in French. Well, well – I will definitely remember that.
From several conversations about amaranth, I learned the following key points:
- boiled amaranth is added to food for children from 6 months;
- amaranth leaves are not consumed fresh;
- grow the plant in home plots and fields in the same way as any other salads or vegetables (even the kind that we call shiritsa)
- every housewife in Rwanda knows how to cook various tasty and healthy dishes from the plant;
- not only folk healers, but also official medicine actively use amaranth in their prescriptions to patients;
- the number of varieties is extremely limited – literally 1-3, depending on whether amaranth is grown for themselves or for further wholesale sale.
And now I’ll tell everyone about this in more detail.
Rwandan pediatricians recommend giving boiled and chopped leaves of young amaranth to babies from 8 months. In fact, as one of the ingredients in the transition of young breastfeeding children to regular foods. But all young mothers in this country start to give a few spoons of amaranth puree 2 months earlier. It is believed that it provides the maximum list of nutrients during the active growth of the child’s body. Also, even in Africa, boiled spinach is also given to babies as complementary foods.
I was surprised by the fact that we often like fresh greens of any kind. And for Africans, heat treatment is mandatory. Young leaves of shiritsa need to be extinguished until they change color. They definitely do not eat fresh sprigs of amaranth. Rwandans also know the main caveat of having a large amount of these greens in the diet. Indeed, oxalates are present in the green mass of amaranth.
All Rwandan housewives enjoy preparing amaranth soups, gravies, mashed potatoes and other dishes in their kitchens that sound very colorful in the Kenirwanda language; they go well with fish, meat, rice, sweet potatoes or very nutritious yams. Thanks to the spice of African cuisine, traditional amaranth delicacies cannot be eaten in large quantities. It is worth noting that for cooking that part of the plant is torn off, at the top of which an ear with seeds has not yet appeared.
As in Ukraine, Rwanda also has a long history of eating foods that all previous generations have become accustomed to. And nowadays, unique information is revealed about the benefits of these familiar herbs, vegetables, fruits. Therefore, on the Internet and in the Kenirwanda language, there are a lot of scientific articles and videos that explain in more detail why the amazing amaranth is extremely useful for the human body. For example, here is a very informative text on a medical website that talks a lot about this miraculous green bush.
Well – it is interesting to check whether we have similar knowledge about the benefits of this herbal product?
Amaranth is a valuable source of protein, iron and other trace elements. It is recommended for those who are physically exhausted. Even in Rwandan hospitals, amaranth dishes are given to adolescents and children, because it quickly recovers strength and contributes to the full development of the child.
Recommended for people who have pain in their legs. It strengthens bone tissue well – even for people of mature age, as it contains calcium. Rutin is involved in the restoration of the connective tissue of the joints, and vitamin C helps to reduce inflammation.
In small quantities, amaranth prevents swelling. Together with the withdrawal of excess fluid, amaranth delicately cleanses excess cholesterol. To improve vision, for pregnant women (a source of folic acid), young amaranth leaves should be consumed with previous boiling over moderate heat.
Rwandans also know that herbal dishes are recommended for the prevention of obesity, for heart disease and for strengthening hair. Schiritsa is a dietary remedy and is loaded with many other important components.
As I already wrote, the wild species of this plant, Amaranthus, is very widespread in the republic. But for you and me, it will be an unexpected discovery that for cultivation for sale, the squid is transplanted into the ground with seedlings. Bunches with fresh tops are taken to markets. The price of one is about $ 0.50. Not bad for a weed, you say. But pay attention to the special respect and culture of consumption of amaranth in Rwanda – after all, it is rather a medicinal plant for the inhabitants of this country. Often, schoolchildren help their parents sell amaranth greens in the markets.
Fresh amaranth on the market
By the way, my friend didn’t tell me anything about eating amaranth cereals or even more oil. In Africa, it is believed that the most valuable is already in the leaves. Also, plucked from the garden, amaranth is used to feed pets.
So, Ukraine today has a great prospect for a more active popularization of amaranth in the world as a multi-useful product. We are rediscovering this important plant with an unsurpassed biological value of all its parts: seeds for cereals or growing microgreens, dry leaves for herbal tea and – amaranth oil, as the concentration of the most valuable substances.
Next summer, baby Lucy will try her first amaranth puree. The leaves will be picked at the dacha of her husband’s relatives. The young mom will continue the tradition of preparing delicious and healthy food for her daughter. And the life-giving Ukrainian land will create a healing elixir of health in the “amaranth biolaboratory” and for many other Ukrainian children. Therefore, study this agriculture, eat amaranth cereals, taste butter with a pleasant nutty taste and be healthy and energetic! And let your children eat right and grow up smart!