*Other Names: *African spinach, bush greens, calailu, callaloo, Chinese spinach, hinn-choy, Indian spinach, Joseph’s coat, strawberry spinach, tampala.

General Description: Amaranth (Amaranthus edulis and others) is a group of plants from which the edible green leaves and, in some cases, grain, is derived. Amaranth grows all around the world, mostly in the tropics. The name “amaranth” derives from the Greek amarantos (unfading) because of an ancient belief that it was immortal.

The Aztecs revered amaranth grain and used it in religious rituals. After Spanish conquistadors destroyed much of the amaranth, the grain fell into obscurity for the next four centuries. In the late 1990s it was rediscovered and is now touted for its healthful properties. Amaranth greens, which taste similar to spinach, are edible, as are the seeds, which can be ground into flour.

Amaranth greens can be somewhat bitter. Young amaranth and the red micro variety may be used raw in salads; older amaranth greens are cooked. In the Caribbean, amaranth greens are known as callaloo and are essential to the famous soup of the same name, made with taro, ham hocks, peppers, celery, okra, coconut milk, and crabmeat.

Season: Amaranth is available in all but the coldest winter months, and it is most likely to be carried in Indian, Caribbean, and Asian markets.

Purchase: As with most greens crops, the young succulent leaves are preferred for eating.

Avoid: Avoid wilted or yellowed greens. Greens that are too large will be overly bitter.

Storage: Keep amaranth greens refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 3 days.

Preparation: # Wash amaranth vigorously in a bowl of tepid water, agitating several times so that dirt falls to the bottom. Lift the greens out of the water so that the dirt stays behind.

  1. Separate the leaves and ribs, reserving the ribs to cook separately (for a longer time).
  2. Cook in boiling water till tender or steam to tenderize.

Serving Suggestions: Dress boiled greens with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve as the Greek dish horta (mixed cooked field greens). Toss steamed amaranth with Asian sesame oil, chile peppers, and soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Flavor Affinities: Bacon, coconut milk, crabmeat, garlic, lemon, olive oil, onion, smoked turkey, sweet and hot peppers.

from Quirk Books: