Red Leaf Vegetable Amaranth (Callaloo)

(Amaranthus tricolor)

Amaranth has many common names: Chinese spinach, edible amaranth, bayan (Malaysia and Indonesia), Calaloo (Caribbean), klaroen (Surinam),Xian cai (Mandarin) Yin choi/in tsoi (Cantonese) Hi-yu-na, Jave hohrensoh (Japanese). Its’ origins are in the tropics of the Carribbean, Asian and African, but now has spread all over the world. They are exceptionally nutritious plants, and from ancient times, seed and leaves of cultivated and wild forms have been used by man for food, medicine and animal fodder. Many exhibit striking colors in leaves and flowers and have been grown as ornamental plants in the west. Known as Red Calaloo in the Caribbean, it has medium green, oval to heart-shaped leaves that are overlaid with burgundy red. Comparable to spinach in taste, the leaves are a good source of dietary fiber and contain high amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is often used in soups. For practical purposes the Amaranthus species can be divided into the following groups according to their main use today: leafy Amaranths, grain Amaranths, decorative Amaranths and weeds. Because the leaves of all Amaranths are edible, all can be considered a vegetable. The leafy Amaranths are the best for cultivating. They are erect, branching, short lived annuals with an average height of about 35cm-150cm when flowering. Leaves are soft textured and go limp quickly after being picked. Both the leaves and stems are edible and delicious. The flavor can be described as ‘like artichokes’ and ’spinach with a bit of a twang’. The flavor is strong and slightly hot in older plants. Indians prefer green leaved and Chinese the red leaved varieties. Leaves are very nutritious, rich in protein, iron, calcium and Vitamins A & C. Very young leaves can be used in salads, eat the young stems as they are, cut the bottom inch off thicker stems, and the older stems can be peeled. The Taiwanese rub the leaves to make them softer. Use it like spinach, but it does cook faster. Simply steam or stir-fry it. In China it is used in soups, the leaves eaten seperately after being cooked in the soup first. In SE Asia they often flavor it with mint.

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