As we enter into the heat of summer in central Texas, we are left with few seasonal greens that are hardy enough to thrive in 100-plus temperatures. The leaves of the Amaranth plant, though, are cultivated consistently throughout Texas summers. After all, they were originally grown by indigenous populations in Mexico, and as far south as the equator. Their survival in a variety of climates and elevations for nearly 8,000 years is a testament to this hardiness. The greens are a nutrient-packed substitute for winter favorites like kale and swiss chard, and possess a hearty flavor most similar to spinach. A mature Amaranth leaf can be slightly astringent when raw, so we recommend blanching or sautéing with a bit of garlic prior to eating. 

The amaranth plant provides us with a myriad of health benefits. One cup of the leaves contains nearly thirty grams of protein and is loaded with calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential to bone health. In fact, one serving of Amaranth provides more than 100 percent of our recommended daily intake of magnesium. They are also super rich in Vitamin A, iron, and dietary fiber. 

Since Amaranth greens are rarely found in most grocery stores, head to your local farmer’s market and pick some up. As always, we recommend our friends at Johnson’s Backyard Garden as a wonderful source for sustainably produced organic veggies!

 

Andrew Scrivani for the New York Times

 Interested in growing Amaranth? Luckily it is one of the easiest greens to grow in a backyard. Simply sow the weeds into a garden bed and water them as you would any garden vegetable – they will be ready for harvest after just one month.

Try the below recipe from the trusted New York Times cooking site, or experiment by adding amaranth greens to your next stir-fry.

 Black Beans with Amaranth