Amaranth plants with fleshy oval shaped leaves pointed at tips are usually 2 meters tall. Most of the leaves are deep maroon in center with red, purple and green bands in it. The Red amaranth produces feathery purple, magenta or red flowers from the central stem loaded with edible seeds. Young flower buds can be eaten, but once they mature and become thick they are not edible and can harm to body. The young leaves are little sharp but light, like spinach. Just like chard or beet green, mature leaves are cooked by boiling
Red Amaranth leaves are available thorough out the year with peak season in the spring and summer (summer and early fall in New England).
Amaranth belongs to Amaranthaceae family and commonly used name out of 60 different species.It is the Greek word amarantos, “one that does not fade," or “the never-perishable”, refers to the thick flowers that retain their color even after harvest. It is also known as common weed, one of the green varieties is called “pigweed” that is commercially harvested for their edible seeds and decorative flowers. In South Asian culture, this plant is eaten as a green vegetable. They are called callaloo in the West Indies, chawli leaves in India, and cow pea leaves in Africa. They are mostly used to make red dye, such as the “Love Lies Bleeding” varietal.
Amaranth leaves are same as beets, Swiss chard and spinach in nutrition and are full of carotene, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin C and trace elements.
Amaranth leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The younger leaves are mild and soft while the mature plants are slightly thick and bitter in flavor. Even though edible, the blossoms usually indicate that the leaves are spent their appropriate time for eating. Greens can be added to salads and soups or briefly cooked with oil as same as spinach. Complimentary flavors consist of bacon, ham, poultry, anchovies, garlic, onion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, lemon, mushrooms, oregano, dill, cumin, goat cheese, parmesan, ricotta, mustard, walnuts and curries.
Amaranth has a long history throughout Mexico and South America. It was majorly eaten by the Ancient Aztecs and was also used in their ceremonial religious worships. The grains immersed in honey regarded as god, worshiped and then finally eaten in a communal feast. When the Spanish soldiers attempted to turn the native populations into Christianity in the sixteenth century, then these “heathen” festivals surrounding Amaranth were forbidden and those were severely punished who refused to leave it.
Amaranth is an American plant, especially Peru where it was harvested somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. Amaranth greens are usually eaten as a vegetable, as resisted to being cultivated as a grain, in Southeast Asia, Africa and India. It grows in every type of soil and once ramified can even planted in drought stricken countries such as in sub-Sahara Africa.