(Amaranthus gangeticus) There are
many members of the amaranth family. They are known as careless weed, pig
weed and other uncomplimentary names, but all are eaten in various parts
of the world. Some are grown primarily for their seed which is treated as
a grain, others are decorative, and some are considered weeds. However, we
are concerned with only those cultivated as a leaf vegetable, among them
A.tricolor, A.oleraceus, A.dubius and A.spinosus.
The main two types grown as a feafy food
crop are loosely termed green amaranth and red amaranth. Red amaranth is
sold as 'Chinese spinach' (though it is not spinach), 'een choy' or 'hsien'.
The plant has dark green leaves splotched
and deeply veined in red. It is delicious, cooks quickly and has even more
nutritional value than spinach. Recognize it by its pink roots and oval
leaves which may have patches of red along the center vein.
Green amaranth grows to about a meter tall.
The leaves are oval with pointed tips and slightly furry undersides, and
have a flavor that stands up to spices. Amaranth is higher in protein than
many beans and contains vitamin A, calcium and iron.
If the weeds in your garden turn out to be
the ubiquitous green amaranth, give thanks to Mother Nature and make the
best of it. Don't spray with weed killer and don't pull them out by the
roots. Pinch out the tender tops of the plants and cook them. Wherever you
pick, the plant branches and produces more leaves, providing an
inexhaustible source of fresh greens throughout the warmer months. Remove
any flowers which develop. These are small and insignificant, forming on
small flexible spikes at the crown of the plant.
Some species of Amaranthus, especially
A.leucocarpus produce seeds in abundance. When mature, these are
gathered and ground into meal by native North Americans and Latin
Purchasing and storing : Like any
leafy vegetable, buy fresh and sprightly looking bunches with the roots
on. If only leaves are sold, cook and eat them as soon as possible. If you
do have to keep them a day or two, wrap them in damp paper, put this in a
plastic bag and refrigerate. Whole plants will keep in the same way for
about a week, but remember that the fresher it is when consumed, the more
food value it will have.
Preparation : Discard roots and tough
lower stems. Wash very thoroughly to get rid of sand which is harbored in
most leafy vegetables. Cook as spinach, add to soups, or stir-fry with
Medicinal uses : Chinese people eat
amaranth during summer, believing it to 'reduce internal heat and
dampness'. It is most often added to soups, but also stir-fried with
garlic. The roots are used to alleviate colds, and are also considered a