Mystery Greens: Amaranth

Zipping through Chinatown on Saturday, I was charged with picking up some sort of vegetable for that evening's pizzafest. I wandered, pondering what might go with the night's experiment: Mexican Pizza (it was what you're imagining, and it was yummy). Bok choy and Chinese broccoli didn't really seem quite right, but then I spied this:

I asked the woman what it was, but of course, she didn't speak English. What were these beautiful leaves? The acid trip–inducing partner of Sichuan peppercorns? Poison on parade? So I thought, "What the heck!" and bought some. What goes with experimental pizza better than mystery greens?

After Googling "edible purple green leaves Chinatown," I lucked into this site. Turns out they're red Amaranth greens, which are super-healthy and part of an edible plant family that's fairly prevalent throughout Asia, parts of Africa, and the Middle East. Its green cousin, traditionally known as vleeta, is apparently a favorite in Greece. Why haven't I seen it before?

Raw, they taste like mild watercress, so we decided to use them in a simple salad. Yum. From what I can tell, these leaves are used in various dishes ranging from stir fry to soup, so I'll have to play and see what happens.

More often than not, it pays to take the mystery vegetable risk in Chinatown. Glad I took the plunge.

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