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Cooking wild Amaranth greens

Updated on September 4, 2015

Disclaimer

We do not recommend the picking of wild foods unless you are professionally trained or accompanied by a professional. Never eat wild foods unless you are certain that you have no allergies or reactions to eating such foods. We do not assume responsibility for any ill effects of eating wild foods. Please educate yourself before you harvest anything.

Cooked Amaranth greens

Amaranth greens cooked with garlic
Amaranth greens cooked with garlic
In this photo you can see the Amaranth plant just starting to get one of its fuzzy tops which will eventually bear seeds.  To the bottom right you can see a lamb's quarters plant, which is also an edible green when young and tender.
In this photo you can see the Amaranth plant just starting to get one of its fuzzy tops which will eventually bear seeds. To the bottom right you can see a lamb's quarters plant, which is also an edible green when young and tender.

About Amaranth

Amaranth is best known for its tiny seeds, which were a staple food for South and Central American civilizations. The seeds are still cultivated today, and they can be purchased at some health food stores and online specialty stores. Amaranth seeds have a sticky or mushy texture when cooked that would be ideal for thickening soups. They have a nutty flavor with sweet undertones.

Amaranth can be found growing wild in many people's gardens, and the young tender leaves or tops of the plants can be eaten as a nutritious cooked green. Find out how they can be prepared below.

Step 1: Harvest the greens

Freshly harvested young Amaranth greens
Freshly harvested young Amaranth greens
Washing amaranth greens prior to cooking
Washing amaranth greens prior to cooking

Harvesting young plants that have not yet or are just beginning to grow their fuzzy top is ideal, but you can also pick the leaves and side shoots off of older and more mature plants. If picking younger plants, you can either snap the tops off with stem and all, or pull the whole plant out of the ground.

Once you have harvested your greens, cut off roots and lower stems (if not tender), and add them to your compost or discard them. Clean the greens by rinsing thoroughly or briefly soaking them in a large bowl of water to loosen and remove any sediment that may be on the leaves.

Cooking the Amaranth greens
Cooking the Amaranth greens

Step 2: Cook the greens

To cook the greens, add just enough water to a frying pan or medium sized pot to prevent the greens from burning while heating up. This should be just enough to cover the bottom of the cooking pot.

Add the greens to the pot, and cook over medium to medium high heat until tender. This should only take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Optional step: at or towards the end of cooking, stir in some chopped garlic to the Amaranth greens for added flavor.

Amaranth greens nearly done cooking
Amaranth greens nearly done cooking
Cutting Amaranth greens into smaller pieces after cooking
Cutting Amaranth greens into smaller pieces after cooking

Step 3: Serve the Amaranth greens

If desired, you can cut the cooked Amaranth greens into smaller pieces with a scissor. This really isn't that necessary, since the greens are very tender, but it can make for cleaner eating.

The cooked greens taste fine just as they are, but you can also try them drizzled with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add salt or tamari soy sauce to taste. They have a very mellow flavor and they go down very easy.

Serve the greens either as a side dish or on top of rice or other starchy foods.

Afterthoughts

This is a simple way to cook greens, and any tender green can be cooked using this method.

Greens are generally very nutritious, and most cultures used to consume cooked greens on a regular basis. In America, the Grandparents and Great Grandparents of today still remember eating greens, and in rural areas, wild greens were regularly harvested and eaten by prior generations.

Try cooking other greens in the manner described above. Another quick cooking tender green similar to amaranth is spinach. There are many types of greens that can be cooked, and many will require more cooking time.

Wild Amaranth seedlings.  Notice the purple under the leaves.. not to be mistaken for poisonous poke sprouts that have dark red under their leaves.
Wild Amaranth seedlings. Notice the purple under the leaves.. not to be mistaken for poisonous poke sprouts that have dark red under their leaves.

Some additional photos of the Amaranth plant

Here are a few more photos of the plant. The first photo shows two Amaranth seedlings . The first few sets of leaves will have purple underneath, but more mature leaves will have less purple.


Young Amaranth plant
Young Amaranth plant

The second photo shows slightly older Amaranth plants among some lettuce seedlings. These are old enough to harvest, but can be let to grow a little longer before harvesting if desired.


The last photo (below) has several Amaranth plants with their characteristic fuzzy tops starting to grow. These tops will eventually turn into a darker brownish red color as the seeds mature.

Some types of Amaranth are grown as ornamental plants. One example of this has been named "love lies bleeding", and is worth looking up for its interesting appearance.

Several Amaranth plants about 45 days old
Several Amaranth plants about 45 days old

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