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Vegetable amaranths are probably the most widely eaten boiled greens throughout Africa’s humid lowlands. They secure the food supply for millions. The leaves and stems make excellent boiled vegetables with soft texture, mild flavor, and no trace of bitterness. (Jim Rakocy)

moment) fuzzy.3 This seems to be especially the case in Africa.

Amaranth leaves and stems make boiled vegetables with soft texture, mild flavor, and no trace of bitterness. In taste tests at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland, most of the 60 participants said that cooked amaranth leaves tasted at least as good as spinach. Some likened the taste to that of artichoke.

Given the food-production experts’ lack of interest, one might imagine these plants to be difficult to grow and unappealing to the growers. But such is not the case. Amaranths produce seeds aplenty and their seedlings emerge so rapidly and sprout with such vigor that the first crop of leaves is sometimes harvested within three weeks of planting. Furthermore, new generations of leaves keep materializing, so that many harvests can be made before replanting becomes necessary. This aptitude for extended production not only eases the farmer’s burden, it leads to huge yields: one test produced 10 tons of edible greens per hectare in a 30-40 day harvest period.

Given their general lack of recognition, one might imagine these lowly


Generally the wild species are considered to have hybridized frequently with the cultivated and thus produced a series of intermediate types.

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