Edible amaranth is one of those fascinating Asian greens that truly packs a superload of essential nutrients. Also known as “Yin Chai” or “Chinese Spinach” , this leafy vegetable is more commonly used in Chinese and other Southeast Asian cuisines, whether for stir-fried or soup-based meals. Although it is not very popular in the Philippines, I have seen this being sold occasionally in local groceries. The leaves closely resemble that of the regular spinach in appearance and texture, and are often used as an alternative to spinach. Unlike the spinach however, the amaranth thrives better in warm weather conditions and can withstand even our summer heat in the Philippines
There are several varieties of amaranth, and each one gives a distinct leaf color ranging from burgundy, or striped red, to deep green. Some varieties are harvested for their seeds, which are equally nutritious; while others are used simply for ornamental purposes.
Most edible amaranth varieties are fast growers. I planted a few seeds in two elongated containers just last month. In 4 – 5 weeks, the plants have grown by at least 12 inches. Harvest the leaves by either cutting the entire plant at the root base, or by cutting only the top leaves, leaving at least 2 leaf nodes from the roots. New growths will appear from these nodes which will be ready for another round of harvest in 3 more weeks.
Sowing the seeds
Sow the seeds by sprinkling them thinly over a medium sized container that is filled with loose potting soil. Top the soil with a thin layer of compost or potting soil, and then water the soil lightly. Place the container in a partially shaded area, watering occasionally to ensure that the soil is moist, but not soggy.
In a few days, the seeds will start to germinate. After about a week, gradually expose the seedlings to more sunlight outdoors. The plants thrive well even with partial sun, but they will grow faster if they receive at least 4 hours of sunlight per day.
Water the plants only when the soil feels dry. The plants are sturdy and can withstand a little drought even during the height of summer. However, their leaves get scorched if exposed to too much sunlight, so move the plants to a partly shaded area with morning sun during summer.
In general, the amaranth is not very prone to diseases or pests. If needed, spray the leaves with organic pesticide to control pests. Fertilize with fresh compost after 1 month to help in the growth of more leaves.