The cultivated amaranth was one of the principal food plants of the American Indians. Three species of this nutritious plant were cultivated by Native Americans during pre-Columbian times. The seeds yield a nutritious grain while the young leaves when cooked, provide a palatable spinach-like greens. These plants grow extremely well in cool dry climates such as we find in Millard County.

According to a former Museum volunteer, who has an MS degree in botany, these plants were favored by our local Fremont Indians. He believes they were introduced to our river valleys from Mexico and extensively grown by those people as a source of food. Further evidence comes from “Salina Woman,” a Fremont exhumation, which showed upon examination, evidence of amaranth greens in the region of her stomach. Apparently this was her last meal before dieing 800 years ago.

Amaranth was one of the staple grain crops for the Aztecs of Central America. They made idols out of ground, toasted seeds mixed with human blood from their sacrificial victims. The idols were then consumed during religious ceremonies. The Spanish Conquistadors found this to be a perverse parody of the Catholic Eucharist and banned the practice along with the plant as well. They forbade its growth and the world was henceforth denied a nutritious, worthwhile addition to its food source; that is until recently. It now seems to be making a comeback; you can now buy it in some health food stores.