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QuestionIs "rajgira atta," a flour used here in India especially on Ekadasi [special fast days when grains are not eaten] the same as buckwheat?
Bhakti Vikasa Swami, Vrindavana, India

AnswerDear Bhakti Vikasa Swami,
Thanks for your letter. No, Rajgira atta is not made from buckwheat, but from the seeds of a plant called amaranth. The name amaranth comes from the ancient Greek meaning "deathless". It was said that this plant promoted a very long life. Note the sanskrit similarity - amara - also meaning deathless.

There are many members of the amaranth family. Some are grown primarily for their seeds, which are treated as a grain, others are decorative, and some are considered weeds. All are edible.amaranth

The two main types grown as a leafy food crop are loosely termed green amaranth and red amaranth.

I grow a lot of red amaranth in my garden (see illustration) and it is a wonderful vegetable/herb with dark green leaves splotched and deeply veined in red. It has a semi-sour taste and is cooked like spinach
in subjis (vegetable dishes) and dals. Incidentally it has much more nutritional value than spinach.

Chinese people eat amaranth during summer, believing it to reduce internal heat and dampness.

The plant is used in Asian cookery extensively, and when it goes to seed, the tiny seeds (actually they look like seeds but botanically they are the fruits) are dried and used as a pseudo-grain flour. When strictly non-cereal items are required in India, this one fits the bill nicely.

Incidentally, I eat puffed amaranth as a breakfast cereal on grain fast days. Delicious with milk! Here in Australia it is available in health food stores and major supermarkets. One can find it in the breakfast cereal section.

Finally, some international names for Amaranth...

English: amaranthus, Chinese spinach, edible amaranth, wild blite, careless weed
Chinese: hin tsoi, een choy, xian cai, yin choi
Danish: amarant
Dutch: amarant
Filipino: kulitis
French: amaranthe, amarante
German: Amarant, Fuchsschwanz
Hindi: chaulai sag, ram dana, lal sag, rajgira, chuamarsa, ganhar, kalgaghasa
Indonesian: bayam, selasih, bayem, abang, senggang bener
Italian: amaranto
Japanese: santousai
Malay: bayam
Portuguese: amarantos, bredos, carurú
Spanish: amaranis, bledos, blancos
Thai: phak khom

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