By Harold McGee
Amaranth is the tiny seed, just 1–2 mm across, of three species of Amaranthus that originated in Mexico and Central and South America, and were cultivated more than 5,000 years ago. (There are also species of amaranth native to the Old World, but they are used exclusively as green vegetables.) Today amaranth supplements other grains in many baked goods, breakfast cereals, and snacks. The Aztec combination of popped seeds and sticky sweetener lives on in the Mexican alegria (“joy”) and Indian laddoo. Amaranth seeds contain substantially more protein and oil than the cereals.