There are at least 70 species of Amaranth, and many of them are eaten to at least some extent in various parts of the world. Listed here are species most likely to be encountered in North America, which are also the most common worldwide. For seeds see our Amaranth Seeds page.
[Chinese spinach; Red Spinach (markets); Pak khom (Thai); Kilitis, Kulitis, Kalunay (Philippine); Chua, Chaulai, Harive, Cheera (India); Bayam (Malaysia); Hinn Choy, Hen Choy, Yin Tsoi (China), A. dubius, A. tricolor]
Originating in South or Southeast Asia, these Amaranth greens are now grown and eaten through much of the world. The photo specimens were obtained from a market in Los Angeles (Alhambra) serving a mixed Vietnamese / Chinese community, but it is also very popular in parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. It is similar to spinach in use but not as fragile so it accepts rougher handling and longer cooking times. In addition to being a lot less tart, it's somewhat mucilaginous so it has a thickening effect.
Amaranth roots are also nutritious, and used in soups in China, Vietnam and Nigeria, but are not found in North American markets. Greens and roots have significant medicinal uses.
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[Quelite Quintonil (Mexico); Common Amaranth, Red-root Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed; Amaranthus retroflexus]
Originating in the tropical Americas, these Amaranth greens are now grown and eaten through much of the world's tropics. The photo specimens were obtained from a market in Los Angeles (Burbank) specializing in Mexican, Central American and South American foods. The bunch was about 15 inches long and weighed 12 ounces. Yield of edible leaves was 4-1/4 ounces (34%).
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[Slender Amaranth; Cheng-kruk (Manipur, India); Kuppacheera (Karala, India); Note Shak (Bengal); Tanduliya (Sanskrit); Callaloo (Jamaica (name used for other greens elsewhere)); Massaagu (Maldives); Amaranthus viridis]
This widely distributed plant is an important culinary green in South Asia (India, Maldives, Bangladesh) and Africa. The seeds are also used in those regions, and are easier to harvest than those of most Amaranths. They have a nutty taste and are used as snacks, in biscuits and porridges. Photo by Eurico Zimbres distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.
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Buying: Asian Amaranth greens are almost always in stock at markets that serve a Southeast Asian community (at least here in Southern California), but are not yet common in the Indian markets. They are sold fresh in plastic bags. Depending on the market, they may weight between 16 ounces with moderate sized stems to nearly 3 pounds with stems up to 1/2 inch diameter. They cost about 2016 US $1.29 per pound.
The American Amaranth greens are still difficult to find, but are available in some Hispanic specialty markets.
Prep & Storage: I treat this like spinach. I float wash them, then pinch off the leaves and tender tips (leave behind the leaf stems too, as they are fibrous). I then remove all free water by spinning in my salad spinner. Wrapped loosely in plastic the leaves will keep for about four days in the fridge.
Yield: Amaranth is quite stemmy. Yields I have experienced have been up to 43% for particularly leafy Asian, and around 34% for American.
Cooking: This green is cooked in many ways, sometimes as a recipe ingredient and sometimes just as greens. When cooking a big bunch as greens, the cooking water is usually discarded because of the oxalic acid content, and sometimes high nitrate content (depending on soil).
Health & Nutrition: Amaranth greens contain an unusual amount of manganese and magnesium, as well as plenty of iron and phosphorus. They also contain significant amounts of calcium, zinc, selenium and potassium. They are also noteworthy for Vitamin E and B complex, and a high amount of protein for a leafy green. Oxalic acid content may somewhat inhibit absorption of the zinc and calcium. While the oxalic acid content is much lower than that of spinach, it is still recommended that people suffering from kidney problems, gout and rheumatoid arthritis avoid this green.