Although most cultivated for its grain-like seeds, amaranth is also widely harvested for its leaves. In fact, many amaranth plants are named with a focus on their leaves. Green Pointed Leaf, White Leaf, All Red, Red Stripe Leaf, Tender Leaf, Green Round Leaf, Asia Red, Prince’s Feather, Red Leaf, and the whimsical Love Lies Bleeding all have appetizing greenery.
Amaranth leaves are used in culinary dishes in the same manner as spinach. The leaves can be served fresh in a salad, or cooked in a variety ways to make a main dish or an accompaniment. Less mature leaves add a mellow and fresh flavor to salad. Larger, more mature leaves taste better cooked in a similar way to chard or beet greens. The tangier mature leaves are more pleasing to the palate if they are cooked in a stir-fry, boiled in a broth, or steamed, rather than eaten fresh.
When purchasing, be careful to select only amaranth leaves that aren’t too wrinkly to blotchy. To prepare amaranth for cooking, you should remove the woodier stems from the leaves. Amaranth stems are sometimes used to add texture to a stew or soup. The stems can become quite tender when cooked for a long while, so don’t be deterred by the thought of eating a piece of stem.
Amaranth leaves can be stored, preferably sealed and refrigerated. However, it is encouraged to eat them immediately. Because amaranth is high in nitrates, reheating cooked leaves can create nitrites. Nitrites are dangerous to consume, especially for small children. Fortunately, amaranth is high in vitamin C, which inhibits carcinogenic nitrosamines, the dangerous product of nitrites in the stomach. Reheating cooked amaranth greens probably won’t make you sick, but it is a good enough reason to cook only what you plan on eating.
Amaranth greens and seeds have been so obscure in the health food world that most grocery stores don’t carry them yet. Some online sites sell them but I can’t vouch for any of them. To buy amaranth leaves, you should go to an health food speciality store or an Asian market. Sometimes known as Chinese Spinach, amaranth is popular across Vietnam, China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and so on. This makes Asian markets a good bet. If you find a reliable online source, leave us a comment.