Carrie Fehr

Kitchen Garden Food

Tag: Amaranth

The Soul Of Ancient Grains

Whole Grain 4

Inspired by a 3rd grade student who raises an important philosophical question when she asks, “Do whole grains have souls?”

Throughout history ancient cultures have regarded grains as a sacred food, like medicine for the soul, it symbolized the essence of their spirituality that meant more than just sustenance. Grains played a significant role in shaping and influencing daily culinary, ritual, and spiritual practices.

Ancient grains tell stories about past civilizations that offer insights into their traditions and cultural values that were important to their life. Quinoa, the legendary grain of the Incas, was known to sustain the body with endurance and to increase deeper spiritual powers through meditation, and with respect, honored as the “mother grain.” Aztecs highly valued amaranth as “the food of the gods,” and for its supernatural health properties that was central to their spiritual rituals.  In the Hindu culture, grains played a role in important rite of passage ceremonies beginning with the ritual of baby’s first solid food, or spiritual food called the “feeding of the grains;” as well as, in weddings and in after life– funerals.

With appreciation for the deeper meaning of ancient grains that was once held sacred, and kept close at heart, I am mindful of my student, and her profound sense of curiosity to express a question the great philosopher, Socrates might ask– Do whole grains have a soul?



PanforteSweet dried fruit, toasted nuts, and crunchy amaranth grains, with notes of honey, chocolate, and aromatic spices, is what makes this panforte hard to resist.   Originally from Tuscany, panforte has roots in a rich food tradition, that dates back to the middle ages, where apothecaries sold this nutrient dense fruit cake to help sustain the Crusaders. I love to snack on this high-energy confection that is just like eating trail mix but in a cake form instead! It’s perfect as a post-workout treat, or alongside a creamy cheese plate, with a cup of tea, or a glass of sweet liqueur.


Panforte is an Italian Christmas holiday tradition that dates from the 12 century, and although stories differ, most agree that Nuns were the first to make this delicious fruitcake. The crunchy amaranth grains are a delightful addition to this panforte, and even better when harvested from your local school garden.


2 cups whole toasted almonds

2 tablespoons toasted amaranth grains* (See note)

3 cups chopped dried organic fruits, any mix of apricots, figs, raisins, cherries, cranberries, dates

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 cup flour

1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon orange zest

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup honey

* Note:  Add amaranth grains into a dry hot frying pan, stirring continually over medium high heat, until golden brown and slightly popped, about 3 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 300 F degrees. Butter and dust with flour a 9-inch springform pan, line it with parchment paper and butter the paper.  Lightly dust with cocoa powder.

In a large bowl toss the nuts, amaranth seeds, and dried fruit with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, flour, cocoa powder, and orange zest.

In a small saucepan over high heat bring the sugar and honey to a full boil fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat until the thermometer reaches 240 F degrees (soft ball stage).  Immediately pour it into the fruit and nut mixture, and combine.  The dough will be stiff.  Pour into prepared springform pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula or dampened hand to flatten it.

Bake for 40-45 minutes , until edges look set and the top is slightly puffed, and it has lost its sheen.  (Careful not overcook it or it will be too hard once its cooled.)  Remove from oven and let it cool  about 10 minutes and then remove the sides of the springform pan.  Let it cool completely before serving.  Rub confectionery sugar over the top and around the sides of the panforte.