An easy to prepare side dish, where aromatics support the fresh flavor of amaranth greens.
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Amaranth, also known as callaloo or pigweed, belongs to the Amaranthus genus of herbs and comes in a myriad of colors. Leafy vegetable amaranth comes in green, purple, red, and gold and is cultivated in many countries throughout the world, concentrated in tropical and warm temperate climates. Amaranth is an ancient food of the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America and of India as well.The Aztecs included amaranth in their religious rituals. It has the same crop success and yield as commonly used grains like rice and holds a similar nutritional value to quinoa, which makes it a particularly interesting crop. Some species are weeds, while others are consumed as vegetables and cereals. All parts of the amaranth plant are edible.
Leaf amaranth is regularly consumed throughout Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Greece. In India, Amaranth is made into a popular dal called thotakura pappu or steamed, mashed and seasoned with salt, chilies and cumin. In China, the leaves and stems are stir-fried to make yin choi. In Nigeria, as in other parts of East and West Africa it is a crop that is revered for its nutritional content, resilience during droughts and economy. In the Caribbean amaranth leaves are known as callaloo and are used to makes soups. The leaves are fragile and should be cooked right away. Use amaranth instead of spinach, Swiss chard and kale. The young leaves require less cooking than spinach, have a more mellow flavor and lend a pleasant pink tint to soups and stew. For salads, use the tiniest leaves in small quantities. When used in soups, many cultivars impart a pleasant pink color.
Amaranth is gluten free, it lowers cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation and eases pain for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. It also has valuable antioxidants that protect your immune system against cancer. In addition, it is high in protein and fiber, a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and folate. As individuals age, the ability to absorb these nutrients decrease over time and thus should be incorporated into the diet as much as possible.
Handling: Older or tough parts of the stems should be removed; otherwise, the entire plant is edible. Rinse well before cooking. Amaranth is stir-fried, cooked in soups, steamed, and, in its youngest, most tender form, eaten raw in a salad. It can replace spinach in any recipe, but note that amaranth will cook a little faster than spinach.
Storing: Amaranth greens should be treated as you would any other greens: pick fresh, not wilted greens free from blemishes and discoloration, wash thoroughly, and keep refrigerated for up to several days. Wilted greens are often just dried out which can still occur even if the greens remain in constant refrigeration. Revive them by submerging the wilted greens in cold water and putting it in the refrigerator overnight.
Freezing: Boil trimmed amaranth for 2-4 minutes and cool in ice water. Strain greens and place in freezer bags.
Tips: This green can be cooked in many ways. It sometimes acts as an addition to a much larger recipe, but can also fuction as a green. When cooking a big bunch of amaranth by themselves, the cooking water is usually discarded because of the oxalic acid that dispells from the green. This acid prevents the zinc and calcium from being absorbed in the body.