By Umar Nsubuga
While grain amaranth (doodo) is a common vegetable countrywide, most Ugandans discard the seeds.
Sharon Naluwende, a nutritionist at Mulago Hospital, says: “The best part of the vegetable is the grain, which has high proteins and minerals. Amaranth seeds are more nutritious than the leaves since they have additional nutrients such as vitamin A and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that prevents the development of cataracts, an eye disease.”
What other nutrients do the seeds contain?
Nulu Zalwango, a nutritionist in Kampala, says doodo seeds contain high amounts of potassium, sodium, vitamins A, E and C as well as folic acid.
She says vitamin C in amaranth, makes it an immune system booster.
Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production and can also contribute to faster healing and repair of cells owing to its role in the production of collagen.
The vitamins in doodo also help the body produce energy, protect the cells from damage and regulate cell and tissue growth.
Grain amaranth also has high-quality protein, essential fatty acids and micro-nutrients, which are essential for growth and health of the body.
Zalwango says the seeds contain 14% to 16% protein, making it a cheap source of food value. Whenever one feels hungry, it is the effect of Ghrelin, the ‘hunger’ hormone.
This often causes people to snack between meals and gain weight.
Amaranth grain can release leptin, a hormone which tells our body that one is full, thus for those interested in losing weight, doodo seeds are a good option.
Amaranth also helps in controlling diabetes by lowering insulin levels and controlling sugar intake through controlling appetite. In addition, grain amaranth is also low in fat and, therefore, does not cause bad cholesterol.
“Amaranth oil has been proven to decrease headaches, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath during a physical activity, oedema of the legs and feeling of intermission of heart function in most patients,” Zalwango explains.
According to Steven Lubwama, an agriculturalist, there are two main varieties of grain amaranth in Uganda; golden (A.hypochondriacus) and cream (white — A.caudatus) short.
“Farmers differentiate them by seed colour. Grain amaranth performs better when planted in rows. Space permits weeding to control weeds and free movement. Amaranth requires a fine, loose seedbed, which can be farmed to provide small seeds with good soil contact,” he says.
Eating doodo seeds
According to Patrick Iga, a farmer, the grain can be popped and mixed with a sugar solution to make confectionery.
“The flour can also be used to make porridge, bread, noodles, pancakes, cereals, cookies or other flour-based products,” he explains.
According to Iga, it is important to plant clean and high-quality seeds at the rate of half a kilogramme to one kilogramme per acre.
Some farmers prefer to broadcast the seeds after mixing them with fine loam soil, sand or fine wood ash and afterwards rake them into the soil.
Iga says a delay in harvesting leads to sprouting, especially if there are high temperatures and moisture. Dew should be avoided during harvesting.
-The seeds should be got from a fully-grown doodo plant. The seeds can be dried on a clean plate. However, they can also be cooked fresh.
-Measure grains and water, at least six cups of water for every cup of amaranth.
-Boil water, add grains, gently boil with the occasional stir for 15-20 minutes, then drain and rinse. Cooked amaranth behaves a little differently than other whole grains.
It never loses its crunch completely, but rather softens on the inside, while maintaining enough outer integrity, so that the grains seem to pop between your teeth.