Earlier this week, we spent several jam-packed days in Santiago de Querétaro, which is about three hours north of Mexico City. In addition to being an important industrial center, Querétaro also has a charming colonial downtown.
While we were there, we took a tour of the Kellogg factory. This is Kellogg’s second largest factory in the Americas. At this factory, Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, and Fruit Loops are made for markets in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.
We don’t have any pictures from inside, but trust us, they have some snazzy machines in there – we especially enjoyed seeing the packaging machines at work. It was really eye-opening to see how food is made on such a massive scale and to learn how formulas are tweaked to serve different markets.
The next day we traveled to a small pueblo called Chijete de Garabato to attend a community event for Mexico Tierra de Amaranto. This non-profit focuses on teaching rural people how to grow and consume amaranth in order to improve their health and increase their incomes.
The countryside was beautiful and littered with wildflowers. The photo below shows fully mature amaranth, which produces a red flower. The flowers are shaken vigorously to extract the seeds.
Below is a photo of a young amaranth plant. Most of the members of the group grow amaranth for their leaves because they can consume it more quickly. The typical life cycle of amaranth plants grown for their leaves is 25 days, while amaranth grown for its seeds takes about 110 days.
After touring the farm, we sat down to a lunch prepared by members of the community. And guess what? Everything had amaranth in it! We started with cream of amaranth soup and then had a delicious dish of chicken stuffed with cheese and amaranth leaves, which women are seen preparing in the picture below. It turns out that fresh amaranth leaves taste like spinach with an herbal flavor, but have much more protein. We ended the meal with a creamy gelatina, or jello, with puffed amaranth in it, which was delectable.
We returned to Mexico City with more knowledge about amaranth than we ever expected to have and a new perspective on the food supply chain. The contrast between the tiny output of these amaranth growers and the colossal volume of food produced at the Kellogg plant was quite striking, and underscored the challenges inherent in balancing sourcing from small, local producers and achieving scale. Stay tuned to the blog for more on that topic. Adios for now, amigos!