Amaranth isn’t just another weed — here’s how to cook this prolific leafy green

Foraged vegetables are always more fun to cook. So our resident forager, Tama Matsuoka Wong, is introducing us to the seasonal wild plants we should be looking for, and the recipes that will make our kitchens feel a little more wild.

I used to only associate amaranth with its seed, an important staple grain for the ancient Aztec civilizations of central and south America. Rich in amino acids, magnesium, and iron, it’s still cultivated today and can be found in grocery and health food stores, along with amaranth flour, which is gluten-free.

Farmers have always appreciated amaranth’s ability to grow on parched soil. Its resilience also makes it one of the most common summer weeds — it’s among the first to grow between crops, in vegetable gardens, and on fields. Because of its Herculean growth rate, Amaranth is also know as pigweed, or by some agriculturalists, “Enemy of the State.”

There are many types of amaranth: Some varietals grow seven feet tall and are cultivated primarily for grains, whereas others are more ornamental — like the “Love Lies Bleeding” varietal, which, though edible, is used primarily to make red dye. But, in many places — including China, India, Mexico, Greece, and Africa — amaranth is enjoyed as a leafy green.

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