Common name: Red spinach, Chinese spinach, Spleen amaranth, Hon-toi-moi, Arai keerai
A very commonly used vegetable in Indian kitchens, and a very commonly seen plant in Indian gardens, Red spinach comes in red and green colors. The green variant is very similar to Amaranthus viridis or Green amaranth, though Red spinach is more commonly used for cooking.
Plants can grow to a height of .8-1.2 meters with a green, succulent, branched stem. Leaves are green or red, elongated oval in shape, and about 10-12 cms long.
These fast-growing annual plants produce tall spike-like inflorescences made up of many bracts which contain either male or female flowers. Both flowers are produced in abundance and are pollinated by wind, insects, bees, or butterflies.
Fruits are small ovoid capsules, about 1.5mm long which opens on maturity to release a single black seed. The stems, leaf stalks, leaves, and seeds are used extensively in cooking, mostly sauteed, blanched, or added to gravies like daal or sambhar. They are also used in making snacks and chutneys.
Red spinach plants are seen in humid tropical weather in several countries in the US, Asia, Australia, and Africa. They grow in the wild in backyards, agricultural land, and open areas mostly because of seed dispersal through bird droppings and animal dung.
They are resistant to poor soil conditions and pollution. But since the stems are succulent, they need regular watering. Red spinach is also susceptible to fungus, worm, and pest infections, which must be addressed quickly to keep the leaves healthy.
Red spinach leaves are very high in fiber and protein, and also contain sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. They help in better digestion, gut health, weight loss, as well as improved immunity and bone strength. These green leafy vegetables are also said to be used in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, and kidney ailments.
Since these plants grow very fast and are ready for harvest in 2-3 weeks, they are ideal plants for a kitchen garden. The quick seed production ensures that you have the next crop ready by the time the first one is used up.
Well-drained soil, regular watering, fertilization, and effective pest control will ensure a continuous supply of nutritious leafy greens for your kitchen.
Propagation is through seeds.