Amaranth is abundant right now as Autumn sets in.
Across the globe, many communities seek out the new growth of wild greens in Spring and Summer – a delicacy long awaited through the colder months in Europe. There is a great revival of the popularity of ‘indigenous’ greens in East Africa. Now sold in large supermarkets, served in restaurants in Nairobi, and Kenyan farmers have increased the area planted with these greens by 25% since 2011.
Around here we call them imifino. In other places around South Africa, marogo is the common word to describe all manner of leafy greens. Jam packed with nutrients, often far surpassing that of more commonly eaten leafy greens like Swiss Chard and Cabbage. In Mpophomeni imifino is most often eaten with mielie meal, as a relish, but young leaves are great in salads, perfect to add to soups and stews or blend into your favourite juice mix.
Amaranth Amaranthus hybridus is one of the most popular greens, it grows profusely in poor soils requiring little watering or attention. There are many varieties – green or red, tall or creeping. It is versatile and can be used wherever greens are called for in a recipe. Young leaves can be chopped into salad.
Amaranthus leaves have heaps more Vitamin C than cabbage or chard – just 50g contains 100% of our daily needs. The leaves are rich in protein, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, carbohydrates and fibre. Leaves are frequently dried and stored for winter use. Seeds contain more protein than most other grains.
This is a popular way of using imfino. While people often substitute easy to find imbuya these days (or even spinach), the very best imifino to use for isijabane is msobo and intshungu. These add a bitter taste and are perfect.
- 500g greens
- 1 or 2 chopped shallots or spring onions
- 500g maize meal
- ½ tsp salt
- Cook the greens, chopped shallots and salt in a little water
- Once the greens are cooked (5-7 minutes) sprinkle dry maize meal into the pot and stir as it absorbs the water. Add a little more maize meal and keep stirring for ten minutes over a low heat.
- The finished dish should be very green and a soft porridge consistency.
If you really don’t like the idea of all that stirring you can cheat by cooking a little soft maize meal separately and then adding it to the cooked imifino.
Mary Kleinenberg’s Crustless Quiche
- 1 ½ cups of green Amaranthus leaves
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- Chopper fresh coriander
- Salt and pepper
- Cheese grated
Steam the leaves until tender, drain and chop. Lightly fry onion and garlic, add mushrooms for about 5 minutes (do not overcook) Then add cheese. Arrange spinach and mushroom mix alternatively in a buttered pie dish. Beat eggs and milk, add chopped coriander, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over vegetables in the pie dish. Bake at 200C for about 35 minutes, until set and brown. Serve hot or cold.
Nikki Brighton’s Wild Green Soup
Make the most of all the greens that are abundant now in late summer. If you are lucky some of your dried beans will be ready to harvest and make this an absolute feast.
- 500g fresh borlotti, cannellini or haricot beans – cooked. You can use dried, it is just more splendid with fresh, home grown beans!
- 2-4 red or white onions – chopped
- 1 head of celery – chopped – leaves reserved
- 1 head garlic – sliced
- 500g Swiss Chard – stalks and leaves chopped
- 1 bunch each basil, mint, marjoram, flat leaf parsley
- 2 kgs of tomatoes (use fresh if you can find those plum/jam tomatoes, or have masses of cherry tomatoes in your garden, otherwise use tins)
- Olive oil, salt, pepper
- Lots different sorts of leaves including borage, young black jack, amaranthus, lettuce, beetroot and whatever you have handy
- 1 fresh red chilli
Heat oil, fry onion and celery stalks gently until softened and brown. Add garlic, chard stalks, chilli and continue to cook until garlic starts to brown, then add half the basil, mint, marjoram and parsley and celery leaves. Gently fry to combine herbs, then add chopped tomatoes. Season and simmer for 30 minutes so the tomatoes reduce with the vegetables. Then add the rest of the leaves and the beans. Cook to combine – not very long so as to retain some of the vibrant green colour. Consistency should be very thick. Add water to thin if you like. Drizzle with olive oil.
We should all be planting and eating this vegetable.
Amaranthus and a selection of other edible weeds is included in the imifino section of Mnandi – A Taste of Mpophomeni. Order a copy from firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Sthembile and Ntombenhle for a taste of imbuya and other leafy greens at lunch in the garden – Handmade lasagne, ijece, imifino, salad, veggie stew and cordial.
- Cost: R100
- Date: Friday 10 March, Sunday 9 April or Friday 12 May
- Time: 12h00
- Venue: Mpophomeni Garden on Mhlongo Road
- RSVP: Ntombenhle 063 410 4697 Sthembile 079 153 3748