Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ancient Amaranth Leaves

Starr_061114-9880_Amaranthus_spinosusToday we’re bringing you another ancient African super vegetable, amaranth leaves. You may be thinking, “Didn’t they already do a Bon Appetit Wednesday article about amaranth?” The answer is “Yes!” Bon Appetit Wednesday! Popping Up Some Ancient Amaranth was about the ancient use of the amaranth grain in the Americas. The amazing thing about amaranth is that it was used in a completely different way in ancient Africa. It was and continues to be a very popular green vegetable, called a potherb. The leaves are boiled, sometimes with other green leafy veggies, and provide numerous vitamins and minerals. As is the case with many ancient food staples, amaranth grows quickly and easily in many habitats so it was perfect for those needing an inexpensive and healthy meal.[1] In fact, the word “amaranth” actually comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “life everlasting.”[2]

Today, these ancient greens continue to provide sustenance, not just in Africa, but around the world. “Their mild spinach-like flavor, high yields, ability to grow in hot weather, and high nutritive value have made them popular vegetable crops, perhaps the most widely eaten vegetables in the humid tropics.”[3] Oddly, in spite of its many positive attributes, the amaranth vegetable often gets short shrift when it comes to scientific communities. A study done in 2001 stated,

“Books highlighting world food plants, even those dealing specifically with vegetables, largely ignore it or accord only the briefest mention. Not surprisingly, then, researchers engaged in improving global food supplies pay little heed. Indeed, most may have never heard of a vegetable amaranth… Amaranths are a poor people’s resource, and the plants are often dismissed as “lowly” and ignored as if, like poverty itself, they should be avoided at all costs. As a United States Department of Agriculture bulletin points out, few species of vegetables are so looked down upon. Several languages include the demeaning phrase “not worth an amaranth.” Indeed, the plants are sometimes regarded as being fit only for pigs (“pigweed” is the common name for one despised American species).”[4]

Thankfully, this mighty veggie doesn’t seem to care what people have to say about it. Since ancient times it has persisted, growing where other crops will not, feeding the poor and providing nutrition to millions. So take a moment to honor this powerful leafy green by cooking up some delicious Amaranth Fritters. We salute you, amaranth leaves!

Amaranth Fritters

*This recipe for amaranth (Amaranthus sp.) comes from South Africa.

Recipe courtesy of nature.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of amaranth leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1 sweet pepper (finely diced)
  • 1 (sweet) potato (finely diced)
  • ½ cup of grated cheese
  • ½ cup of minced meat
  • Oil for frying (not more than ½ cup)

Instructions

  1. Sort tender leaves of amaranth, wash and cut in small pieces.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients.
  3. Add other ingredients and form a soft dough.
  4. Heal just enough oil in pan for frying.
  5. Scoop spoonfuls in a pan with oil to fry until golden brown.
  6. Excess oil can be drained on paper towels or brown paper.

*Variations: Onion, sweet pepper, (sweet) potato, cheese or minced meat can be replaced by other finely diced vegetables.

[1] Read “Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables” at NAP.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Original:Amaranth Modern Prospects for an Ancient Crop 8. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015.

[4] “Lost Crops of Africa”

One response to “Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ancient Amaranth Leaves

  1. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! A Christmas Feast | AntiquityNOW

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