Amaranth is a very old grain dating back hundreds of years to the Aztecs in Mexico. This grain had become a staple in the daily diet of the Aztecs. The plant grows vigorously under the most adverse conditions, especially in areas that are plagued by drought. Amaranth grows quickly and abundantly, and both the leaves and the seeds offer unusually high quality protein that is of a higher quality than that of any other grain. Boiled in water and then chilled, amaranth seeds can be used to replace cornstarch as a thickening agent. In fact, when the grain is mixed with whole wheat, the protein of that combination comes very close to that recommended for optimum human nutrition. Amaranth is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. It has a long shelf life and an unusually nutty flavor, and it works remarkably well in a vast range of recipes. In parts of Asia, the leaves are eaten as a vegetable, and seeds are parched and milled and made into a flat bread. The grain cooks easily and quickly, and it always retains its shape. It never gets soft or mushy, and the hulls stay firm and chewy. When the grain is ground into flour, it behaves best in combination with wheat flours, since it has a low-gluten content. The whole grain can also be popped and eaten like popcorn, and it can then be sweetened with honey or molasses.