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Amaranthus Dubius - Kalunay, Red Spinach or Spleen Amaranth

Updated on August 26, 2018
Growing edible amaranthus dubius, kalunay (Filipino) or spleen amaranth.
Growing edible amaranthus dubius, kalunay (Filipino) or spleen amaranth. | Source

Amaranthus Dubius or Kalunay

Amaranthus dubius is known in different names and is known in the Philippines as kalunay. It grows wildly and finding them would make someone's day knowing they are edible. Well that is, in our case. One of the common names it is known for is red spinach. It is often considered a weed and it self sows.

From seeds one can successfully germinate it when the warm weather comes. But once planting was started, there's no need to plant red spinach every year as the plant self sows. That means amaranthus dubius, or kalunay seedlings sprouting in your garden every year, everywhere. And that is by experience. It's one of those plants that pops up in our container garden every Spring with their beautiful reddish young leaves. They appear on almost every pot we have even on my hanging baskets of flowering plants.

Kalunay and Kulitis

I've grown to know that the kalunay and kulitis are different, in a way that the kalunay has no thorns. Kulitis on the other hand has thorns. But reading recently that the two are the same, and that kulitis is the Tagalog word while kalunay is the Ilocano, it somehow questions the difference I've known since. Is kalunay and kulitis really refers to the same plant - thornless or not?

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Young spleen amaranth or kalunay as it's been called in the Philippines sharing the spot with bok choi.Amaranthus dubius or spleen amaranth seedlings are reddish in color.
Young spleen amaranth or kalunay as it's been called in the Philippines sharing the spot with bok choi.
Young spleen amaranth or kalunay as it's been called in the Philippines sharing the spot with bok choi. | Source
Amaranthus dubius or spleen amaranth seedlings are reddish in color.
Amaranthus dubius or spleen amaranth seedlings are reddish in color. | Source

Other Names Amaranthus Dubius is Known for

Name
Country
Kalunay/Kulitis
Philippines
Rau den
Vietnam
Harive
Karnataka, India
Cheera
South India
Ptee
Cambodia

Kalunay and kulitis as it is known in the Philippines, amaranthus dubius is known in other names such as red spinach, Chinese spinach and spleen amaranth. It is known in other names in different countries.

Consumption, Dishes and Photos

The leaves of the plant is consumed as leafy vegetables and is added to soups, stews and is sauteed with other vegetables. It goes along well with other usual leafy green vegetables in the Filipino soup dish tinola and is a perfect match with sauteed sardines as well. In the Ilocano dish pinakbet and dinengdeng, leaves of kalunay or speen amaranth is one of the favorite ingredients along with sweet potato tops, okra, beans, eggplant and bitter melon.

While the leaves of spleen amaranth is used in many Filipino soup based dishes, it is consumed as well in other countries simply being boiled or steamed and is served with lemon juice and olive oil. In India, it is used as dal ingredient called thota kura pappu. Some stir fries leaves of red spinach along with spices.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Filipino soup based dish sinigang with kalunay leaves. Also known as red spinach or spleen amaranth.Kalunay leaves or red spinach in a dish made of mung beans, seasoned with fish sauce.Another Filipino dish where home grown red spinach, also known as spleen amaranth is one of the main ingredients.
Filipino soup based dish sinigang with kalunay leaves. Also known as red spinach or spleen amaranth.
Filipino soup based dish sinigang with kalunay leaves. Also known as red spinach or spleen amaranth. | Source
Kalunay leaves or red spinach in a dish made of mung beans, seasoned with fish sauce.
Kalunay leaves or red spinach in a dish made of mung beans, seasoned with fish sauce. | Source
Another Filipino dish where home grown red spinach, also known as spleen amaranth is one of the main ingredients.
Another Filipino dish where home grown red spinach, also known as spleen amaranth is one of the main ingredients. | Source

Health Benefits

Lucky are those who treats spleen amaranth as a green leafy vegetable. Simply adding the leaves to dishes means having fiber the body needs. It also provides dietary minerals and protein. Spleen amaranth, red spinach or kalunay amongst many other names is a wonderful spinach substitute. In addition to that, it also provides A and C vitamins along with calcium, iron, magnesium, and folate.

Aside from consumption simply as a vegetable, consuming the leaves while dealing with a cough serves as an expectorant. Amaranthus dubius is used as a remedy for eczema as well while the roots are used as treatment for gonorrhea.

More on Spleen Amaranth or Kalunay, Growing and Photos

Growing as an annual herb, kalunay or spleen amaranth starts off as little red seedlings. As the seedlings grow, the reddish color slowly diminish and turns into green. The leaves are ovate in shape and becomes shorter distally. The fading reddish color totally diminished once the plant matures.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Young red spinach with climbing spinach in the middle. The leaves of these red spinach will turn all green as they grow. Amaranthus dubius seedlings in different stages of growth.A young kalunay plant with its leaves still reddish in color that will slowly diminish as the plant continuously grows. Healthy young edible amaranthus dubius also known as red spinach.How does red spinach looks peeking under? Although the top of the plant may already look green, bending down and looking under, the reddish color are still pretty much visible. Kalunay plants with all green leaves.
Young red spinach with climbing spinach in the middle. The leaves of these red spinach will turn all green as they grow.
Young red spinach with climbing spinach in the middle. The leaves of these red spinach will turn all green as they grow. | Source
Amaranthus dubius seedlings in different stages of growth.
Amaranthus dubius seedlings in different stages of growth. | Source
A young kalunay plant with its leaves still reddish in color that will slowly diminish as the plant continuously grows.
A young kalunay plant with its leaves still reddish in color that will slowly diminish as the plant continuously grows. | Source
Healthy young edible amaranthus dubius also known as red spinach.
Healthy young edible amaranthus dubius also known as red spinach. | Source
How does red spinach looks peeking under? Although the top of the plant may already look green, bending down and looking under, the reddish color are still pretty much visible.
How does red spinach looks peeking under? Although the top of the plant may already look green, bending down and looking under, the reddish color are still pretty much visible. | Source
Kalunay plants with all green leaves.
Kalunay plants with all green leaves. | Source

The plant branches out as it grows with both the branches and the stem green in color. Kalunay or red spinach bears green flowers that are clustered at the tips of the plant's inflorescence branches. It isn't uncommon for it to bend downwards because of the weigh.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Spleen amaranth or kalunay flowers in its maturity. Soon these will all turn brownish in color and reseeds itself for us to step into the patio one day with a lot of new young seedlings.Kalunay or spleen amaranth with young flowers. A plant  from previous years.
Spleen amaranth or kalunay flowers in its maturity. Soon these will all turn brownish in color and reseeds itself for us to step into the patio one day with a lot of new young seedlings.
Spleen amaranth or kalunay flowers in its maturity. Soon these will all turn brownish in color and reseeds itself for us to step into the patio one day with a lot of new young seedlings. | Source
Kalunay or spleen amaranth with young flowers.
Kalunay or spleen amaranth with young flowers. | Source
A plant  from previous years.
A plant from previous years. | Source

Home grown, spleen amaranth could provide enough leaves for every time you're up for a recipe that calls for the leaves. That is again once planting was started, chances are seedlings of spleen amaranth will pop up their reddish little leaves underneath the soil every chance they get. And that means anywhere and everywhere. As to us, we just let our kalunay or red spinach grow wherever they've sprouted until they're ready for harvest or if we're in need of the leaves for a dish.

Some we let mature and pick leaves as needed. The plant will branch out again after over a week or so. Some we harvest while young, often about 3 inches tall with still visible reddish leaves and consume it with the roots after being washed thoroughly of course. Some have said the plant has more of the nutrients while still reddish and more of the nutrients in the roots as well.

Photo below is of a kalunay that is growing in a hanging basket where the peppermint is. The top of this spleen amaranth was pinched off for a dish calling for the nutritious green leaves. Notice though the new young branch growing where it was pinch off.

Kalunay self sows and is everywhere. Even in our hanging basket growing along with peppermint.  Photo taken 2018.
Kalunay self sows and is everywhere. Even in our hanging basket growing along with peppermint. Photo taken 2018. | Source

Did you know?

* Amarant means "unwithering" from its Greek word amarantos.

* A prepared warm poultice of kalunay leaves can be applied to treat hemorrhoids externally. Or it can be used to treat boils.

* Kalunay, (amaranthus dubius) is valued by people all over the world as a leafy vegetable.

* It is known in the Andes today as kichiwa and huautli to the Aztics.

* It is known in Thailand as phak khom.

* This usually grown leafy vegetable in Asia is a self-sowing plant and you'd be surprise how many young sprouts you will find the next year.

Kalunay (Wild Spinach) Seedlings (2014)

Video of our tallest kalunay plant, which is around 3 ft. tall. Seeds are also maturing.

Are you familiar with this leafy vegetable?

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    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      4 years ago from USA

      Glad you enjoyed this hub DDE :) Thanks. It is a lovely treat. We just let them grow wherever they pop up every year and harvest them as young plant, or they would occupy almost every pot :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Awesome! a unique plant and sounds a lovely treat. A helpful and informative hub.

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      5 years ago from USA

      @ Angelo52:

      Yes Angelo, it is good in salad too. But I love it sauteed, specially the young ones :) Thank you for up, sharing and stopping by and reading! ^-^'

      @ Avian:

      It does taste like spinach. Could be mix with other greens for a salad too :)

      @ Alocsin:

      Nice to hear you had an experienced with this vege. Alocsin :) There's also this other kind of this plant which is prickly, but we prefer the thornless kalunay. thanks for stopping by!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 

      5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I remember eating this as a child in the Philippines - but I don't think I've seen it here in Southern California. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Does it taste like a spinach? It sure looks like a great thing for a salad mix.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      A lot of good information about the Chinese spinach. Never heard of this before. Looks like a good leafy vegie for a salad.

      Thumbs up and shared.

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      5 years ago from USA

      Hi Drbj :) Thank you for stopping by and the comment. The seeds on the photo are now turning yellowish and maturing. Have a great weekend! :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks to your excellent narrative, precy, I'm learning about dozens of Asian plants I've never heard of before. Your photos are excellent, too.

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