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Chinese spinach may be solid green in color, or green with crimson highlights. The flavor is very similar to standard spinach varieties with the red or crimson varieties being sweeter and more intense. True to most leafy greens, the younger leaves are preferred for raw consumption while the larger, older leaves are typically steamed or sautéed.
Chinese spinach is available year-round
The moniker Chinese spinach, botanically classified as Amaranthaceae amaranthus, encompasses multiple edible species of amaranth varieties. Chinese spinach has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat heat stroke, detoxify the body and heal fractures. Genetically, Chinese spinach is similar to ancient wild varieties, leaving it nutritiously dense and highly variable.
Because this variety of spinach is high in nitrates, potassium and oxalic acids, it is advised not to consume high amounts if you have kidney disease. Chinese spinach is highly concentrated with iron, copper, carbohydrates, calcium, folate, vitamin A, B6 and Vitamin C. Chinese spinach is a source of a complete protein, containing a complete set of amino acids. The protein content in the leaves helps to reduce insulin levels in the blood and releases a hormone that lessens hunger and cravings, aiding in weight loss.
To cook, gently boil Chinese spinach leaves in water or steam; discard water which turns reddish in color. Ideal choice for salads, soups, stews, curries and stir-fries. Sautéed greens are traditionally seasoned with spices and added to soups for enhancing flavor and adding texture. To store, keep refrigerated in a plastic bag. For optimum quality, use within one week.
Other names for Chinese spinach include hiyu, hon-toi-mo, yin choy, Bayam, een choy, Amaranth Red, Amaranth Green, Tampala spinach, Yin tsoi and hsien tsai.
Chinese spinach was abundant and grew wild in ancient North and South Americas. Chinese spinach is believed to have been consumed by the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas and referred as the "Food of the Gods". Spanish conquistadors nearly wiped out the Chinese spinach population, banning the cultivation of crops in the 1500's. The dense nutritional value found in the leaves and seeds of Chinese spinach created renewed American interest in the 1970's.
Recipes that include Chinese Spinach. One is easiest, three is harder.