I’ve seen Amaranth growing in gardens in my neighbourhood as ornamental plants. They reminded me of my childhood years when we had Chinese amaranth as vegetables stir-fried or worked in salads. They were very popular edible summer vegetables. My mother used to blanch amaranth in fast-boiling water first; drain them afterwards and put them into a dish; she then dressed the blanched amaranth leaves (stems) with a hot sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil and a locally made chilli paste. Heaven!
I enjoyed the flavour of the amaranth very much, but hated the red-coloured soup. My mother sometimes stir-fried the tender shoots with some fresh ginger and some garlic. Back then, there were two types of amaranths on the market: we called them white amaranth (white stems, green leaves) and red amaranth (actually purple-green-coloured leaves). My mother ended up buying always the red ones. She must have found the coloured one pleasing her eyes.
Chinese Amaranth, also known as ‘Chinese spinach’, grows very well in warm regions; but they do perfectly well here, as proven this year in my vegetable garden. Sow them only when the temperature gets warmer, I did it this year in May; broadcasting the seeds directly in the pre-prepared raised bed, not too deep as the seeds were quite small. They were really fast-growing veggies once germinated. I started to pinch out the main stems when the plants were about 10cm tall (the pinched-outs were stir-fried, of course). They began to develop side shoots. Harvest when the shoots are still tender, this can mean picking weekly in the summer. Repeat this pinch-and grow process until late summer when tiny pink colour began to appear on the tip of the shoots. I then stopped harvesting just to allow the plants set seeds.
The dark purple flower heads hanging down above the yellowish green leaves are an eye-catching feature in any autumn vegetable garden.
I regard this a valuable leafy vegetable for my family in the summer months when I normally have only fruit bearing crops to harvest at this time of the year (beans, tomatoes, chillies, courgettes etc.); moreover, unlike some oriental veggies such as Pak Choi, when stir-fried, they tend to release some juice in the wok, resulting in ‘cooking’ the veggie rather than ‘stir-frying’ it; amaranth has this ‘dry’ character that when stir-fried, they tend to absorb the juice or the flavour of other ingredients in the wok, giving the veggie stronger flavour, which is exactly what stir-fry all about.