- The species most widely consumed in Mexico is Amaranthus hypochondriacus, commonly known as: quelites, bledos and quintoniles (the green leaves) and alegría or amaranth (the toasted seeds).
- From the Greek amárantos, unfading.
It belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, which has sixty genera and about 800 species, only three of which have been domesticated and are cultivated today: Amaranthus hypochondriacus from Mexico; Amaranthus cruentus from Guatemala and southeast Mexico; and Amaranthus caudatus, from South America.
The Mayas were the first people to cultivate amaranth. Together with other products such as maize, beans, squash, and chía (sage), amaranth was part of the diet of pre-Hispanic peoples when they discovered that the seeds could be stored for long periods of time and used when foodstuffs ran low.
It is rich in phosphorous, calcium, potassium, carbohydrates and magnesium; furthermore, it is low in fat.
In Mexico amaranth is commonly found in a sweet known as alegría. Amaranth seeds are also ground and mixed with maize to make tamales and atoles; they can also be combined with wheat flour to prepare cookies or to prepare various kinds of snacks.
- Amaranth has more protein than corn and wheat
- Amaranth cultivation began 7000 years ago in the Americas
- Amaranth can grow in the most adverse of conditions, such as high temperatures and saline soils
- 45.3 kg of amaranth are consumed annually per capita in Mexico
- The United States and Italy are the main importers of Mexican amaranth