In the province of Andahuaylas, Peru, sweeping mountain valleys and serene green-blue lakes give way to high-altitude plains with a secret history. It is here that one of the world’s oldest known food crops has been grown and cultivated for over 8,000 years.
Known as the “Golden Grain,” amaranth is a nutrition-packed pseudocereal (meaning it is not technically a cereal grain like wheat or oats). In addition to being high in fiber, protein, and phytonutrients, amaranth is an excellent source of manganese, which aids in brain functions and can help protect against neurological diseases. We love it for its high vitamin and mineral content, including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C as well as its inflammation-fighting power—all of which make it a great addition to our One Degree Organics cereals.
It is our ongoing commitment to the highest standards of plant-based organic food that took us straight to the source—to meet with farmers from Cooperativa Machupicchu in Peru. Here amongst the towering stalks of four-month-old amaranth we were able to learn about the grain’s rich history, traditional Peruvian farming, how the altitude and climate aid in growth, and get to know the dedicated locals tending these nutritious crops.
Among the many interesting details about amaranth is the fact that while it is considered a pseudocereal, it is often seen as part of the ancient grains family and was considered to have been a staple food of early great civilizations, including the Inca, Maya, and Aztec peoples.
The farming tradition continues at 2,500 meters above sea level in Andahuaylas, where Benito Mesares Lara and Maximo Pahuara tell us they’ve been growing it in these fields for the past four years (Andahuaylas was previously the country’s largest potato-producing province). “We’ll know the stalks are ready for harvest when the seeds are dry and a soft white color,” explains Benito. “We also taste them to see if they’re hard. If they’re soft, we’ll have to wait.”
The payoff for Benito, Maximo, and other farmers we met, including Yenny Mesares Rivas and Fabio Carrasco Junco has much to do with fostering community support and earn enough to send their children to school. Working with Villa Andina ensures that they always have a buyer. “The co-operative mainly helps the farmers get together,” says Lead Technician Hilder Chacon. “As well as find and enter competitive markets for more exposure and more opportunity.” This vital connection allows farmers to connect with more and larger clients, including One Degree Organic Foods.
This trip highlighted the incredible hard work these farmers put into not only keeping tradition alive, but also growing their community for the better. We are proud to share in their passion for growing and share this farm-to-table transparency. Cooperativa Machupicchu’s amaranth is a delicious and healthful addition to our One Degree Organics cereals. We hope you enjoy the earthy, nutty flavor as much as we do.