Tag Archives: greens

Spicy Red Amaranth Stir-Fry

I don’t go to our farmer’s markets as much as I’d like, but when I do, I always seem to find something new to try.  I enjoy dark, green leafy veggies quite a bit, so I’m not a hard sell.  One vendor recently  noticed me admiring the beautiful magenta color at the center of the larger deep, green leaves lightly filling a bag.  “It’s red amaranth,” the young man told me, reaching for the bag I was focused on.  “Here, taste it.” And so I did.

Although somewhat like spinach in flavor, amaranth, or what some refer to as Chinese spinach, is more sturdy between my teeth as I chew on it, its flavor somewhat like fresh grass smells like if that makes any sense at all.  It’s not sweet, but not pungent, either, and leaves a pleasant, unbitter taste in my mouth.

But I thought amaranth was a grain — isn’t it?  And don’t I remember seeing annuals at the nursery with colorful plumes which also somehow reminded me of the tasty greens I was chewing on?

Evidently yes to all above — sort of.  It isn’t a true grain, but is referred to as a pseudo-grain.  Some varieties are cultivated for the leafy green vegetable, some for seeds to be used much like rice or corn are used. And although I did know that buckwheat and quinoa were very high plant protein sources, amaranth seeds are as well.  And, they lack gluten, so that makes them quite beneficial to those who are gluten intolerant.

Historically, amaranth was a staple of ancient Mesoamericans and has been enjoyed in Asia for centuries.  Why and how did our culture adapt to eating iceberg lettuce instead?  Evidently, amaranth became associated with religious rituals involving human sacrifice, so it was banned by the invading Spaniards who then came to North America.

So that explains how we ended up with ice berg lettuce.

This recipe spices things up a bit, perfect for lunch by itself or a dinner side.  Use spinach if you can’t find red amaranth.  Your body will thank you.

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Chicken Wrap with Spicy Greens

I’ve been working on our patio for a few months now trying to make it more functional and enjoyable.  It’s a narrow area that wraps along two sides of our house and much different than the half-acre of hillside we tended at our former house.  At first, the idea of having so much less to manage outside was attractive because we were busy with our jobs and moving closer to the ocean and a beautiful seaside community that would inspire us to get out more and enjoy weekends full of sun and fun.  But I’m a gardener — I always have been.  And as much as the weather is often quite gorgeous here, I’m content to spend time outside digging in the dirt.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been very easy for the past few years.

A former owner had planters installed on the patio and made less than smart choices about what was planted in them, so now, several are completely root bound.  Old flagstone capping has loosened from the planter walls, much of it cracked or broken completely.  The fence, although beloved by my cats for its great scratching post qualities, was more a termite high rise.  Tearing it down took little thought.

I’ve always kept pots of annuals and herbs, and for the first time two years ago, began growing tomatoes in pots.  About a year ago, I put together a small herb box as well.  This year, one of the tomato pots has become a salad greens pot.  It may not seem like much, but I can tell you the snails would be quite upset if I ever got rid of the little herb box.  And this year, they’ve truly enjoyed picking out all but one variety of salad green from the new pot.  Who knew snails had such discriminating palates — erm — radula?

Even though my patio is small by suburban yard standards here, I could squeeze the few things I enjoy harvesting in an even smaller space such as a balcony if I had to.  In other words, it doesn’t take much to grow a few of your own veggies and or herbs.  I’d enjoy planting even more among the roses and succulents I’m currently planting in the newly filled, capped, and painted planters, but until those plants are established, adding anything edible to them isn’t advisable and may never be.  Hence, the pots I have are a great idea because I can move them around according to the seasons and sunlight.

My tomato plants are sporting grape-sized fruit, but the idea frying tiny green tomatoes isn’t as appealing to me as plucking some of the salad greens, a few leaves of the perennial bloody sorrel that continues to thrive, some wild arugula, and purple basil.

Perfect for a wrap with a bit of left over chicken and, if the patio was finished, a nice lunch outside with a good book.  All in due time.

Are you a gardener?  Do you have an outside space to relax in when the weather is pleasant?

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