Amaranth and the Earth Element

Here in the northern hemisphere, e are moving into a time that is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as late summer. Many call it "the great interchange of seasons" because, when we harmonize with this time of year, we head into the colder months feeling strong and well-equipped to handle any virus or bacteria that might come our way.

Late summer is a glorious time of year. Days are still warm but nights turn cooler. Follow your instinct to have a cup of tea before bed. Try chamomile and lavender or a dandelion root blend. To align with the earth element, try eating more cooked vegetables, and make sure that plenty of them are orange. Think carrots, sweet potatoes, and the first winter squash.

Earth is represented by the sweet flavor, which, in TCM, doesn't mean sugar as much as it means whole grains and starchy vegetables. In this traditional nutritional philosophy, each time of year and element aligns with organs that need special attention. In late summer, it's the spleen and pancreas. Think digestive secretions, ability to digest and eliminate effectively, and mindfulness while eating.

The Earth organs, through their digestive processes, are at the heart of making vital energy for our entire being. To support the spleen and pancreas at this time of year, consider sitting down quietly with amaranth flatbread, baked sweet potatoes, and adzuki beans garnished with tahini for dinner.

Have you ever eaten amaranth before? Just as there is currently a quinoa craze, there was an amaranth craze (which some of you might remember) in the 1970s. 

Be aware, though, that whenever a food becomes trendy, it's important to trace that trend to its source. When Americans were consuming loads of amaranth in the seventies, Oaxacan breastfeeding mothers didn't have access to it. This fact is problematic when you realize that amaranth, a member of the chenopodium family (quinoa, beets, chard, spinach), is native to Oaxaca, Mexico and is the chief food for lactating mothers.

We know about the Bolivian quinoa scandal and the work that's being done in the U.S. to grow quinoa domestically. Its forgotten cousin, amaranth is a delicious, nutty, slightly crunchy whole grain that's high in protein and lower in carbohydrates than grains like rice and oats. 

Amaranth is relatively rich in lysine, an amino acid that helps with the absorption of calcium and the formation of collagen. It is also high in the minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium. It contains about four times as much calcium as wheat and twice as much iron and magnesium.

Cooked and baked into a flatbread, it makes a delicious and crunchy addition to a late summer lunch. Try this recipe and let me know what you think!

Simple Amaranth

Combine 1 cup amaranth with 2 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for up to 20 minutes, until grains are fluffy and water is absorbed.

Amaranth Flatbread

Take 1 cup cooked amaranth and mix in a bowl with:

  • 3 Tablespoons flax seed meal

  • ¼ cup coconut flour

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil

  • 1 cup shredded carrots

  • 1/2 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon, salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil a cookie sheet with coconut oil. Spread batter in a thin layer on cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The longer you bake it, the crispier it becomes.

Cool for 10 minutes before slicing.