Friday, September 12, 2008
Who is this Amaranth? And, how nice is she?
Amaranth ain’t no lady; she is one spicy leafy vegetable. Actually, that isn’t true either (more later). Pigweed, as it is also known more derisively, can be considered a weed. But, beauty and tasty are in the eye of the beholder/ eater. So for many the world over, amaranth is a fantastic vegetable. The seeds, stems and leaves of this plant are edible.
After writing my post about my pasta with amaranth, cranberry beans and radishes, I thought I might attempt to learn more about the vegetable. My deep internet research indicates that amaranth is grown as a foodstuff particularly in Africa and the Americas. The grain is a particularly important staple as it is a vegetal protein (a la quinoa). I have used the grain, though yet mastered it. But in the hands of more masterful people, it is delicious.
As a leaf vegetable, amaranth is used in India, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. It is fairly mild and reminiscent of spinach--except for that it is beautifully striped with pink. Apparently some varieties can be used to make dye. But, it is very useful for its fast growth as a crop and high nutrition. According to that source of all sources, Wikipedia, it is full of stuff to make you grow like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, and folate, and dietary minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. However, it can also high in nitrites (as my husband says the ham of the vegetable world), and as such should not be used to say make baby food. Obviously it is hard to test for nitrites in the home kitchen, so I just made this for my husband and I for lunch.
As with so many pinkish colors in foodstuffs, the pink is mostly fugitive when cooked except in the stems which remained a lovely pink. So expect that, but the stems remain a pretty pink.
All this said what do you do when you buy amaranth leaves as an impulse buy? I remembered reading somewhere that it was used in Tamil cooking. As I said recently, Indian food is vast. So, Amaranth was not part of my families tradition, but thankfully there were plenty of recipes online. Each paired amaranth with toor daal. Jugalbandi had some great recipes for this pairing. So, I boiled 1 cup toor dal with a large bag of cleaned and destemmed amaranth leaves then added ground ginger, a bit of fennel seed, paprika, and chilli pepper. Then, thinking sliced sweet potatoes from the Korean store and carrots. Finally, a squeeze of lime. It was delicious.
This entry is also my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Gretchen from Canela & Comino and originated by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.