Taiwan Spinach

This week at the international grocery store they had Taiwan spinach.  I love this green!  I lack the vocabulary to describe why it meshes so well with my taste buds.  I was first introduced to it at a Sunday morning dim sum located in University City.  Oh, Lu Lu, how I love your food.  Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant makes some killer dim sum.  (And they are one of the few places with bubble tea in town.)  The ladies come around with the carts instead of a weird buffet thing like many of the restaurants here in the St. Louis area.  You never know what is going to come around and be available which is half the fun.  The particular dish that introduced me to this green involved steaming the spinach and dressing it with a soy sauce/ sesame oil mixture.  Fantastic!

Amaranthus gangeticus (Chinese spinach or taiwan spinach)

This edible amaranth grows about 14 inches high, but can be higher when flowering.  The seeds and greens are edible, but the flowers are not.  This is a warm weather crop.  Seeds should be germinated in the dark (with a row cover) at about 50 degrees fahrenheit.  These plants will not stand frost or freezing.  This green likes loose, sandy, and fertile soil.  It can’t stand compacted soil so a good cover of straw or frequent hoeing will help it’s growth.

3 Ways to Harvest (about 6-8 weeks):

  1.  Pinch tips and let regrow.
  2. Pull out whole plant when it reaches about 10 inches.
  3. Cut plant back to about an inch an a half above the ground to regrow.

This plant can put out a pretty hefty harvest apparently with proper thinning or cutting back.

I like this variety of edible amaranth probably best of all I have tried.  It has a really satisfying and hearty taste.  It also lacks the bitterness of some of the red tinged cultivars.  So here is what we ate tonight (I had no idea what call it):

Chinese Spinach and Mushroom Grits Bake

  • 1 1/2 Cups Grits
  • 5 TBS oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 2 leeks, finely chopped
  • one large king oyster mushroom (half pound)
  • 2 TBS dry sherry
  • 1 lb Chinese spinach, washed and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 lb firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 2 TBS Pinoy Curat Spiced Coconut Vinegar
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce (cock sauce)
  • 1 TBS Chinese 5 Spice
  • 2 TBS Dark soy sauce with mushroom flavor
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook Grits according to directions and set aside.
  3. Heat 2 TBS oil in large pan.
  4. Add the onions, leeks, and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are caramelized. Set aside.
  5. De glaze the pan with the sherry, add the salt and cook until dry.
  6. Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
  7. In a separate skillet, heat remaining oil.
  8. Add the garlic and basil.  Simmer until garlic is golden brown.
  9. In food processor, add contents of skillet, tofu, lemon juice, Pinoy Curat, sriracha, Chinese 5 spice, and soy sauce.  Blend until smooth.
  10. Add tofu mixture to vegetable mixture.
  11. In large casserole, layer half of the grits on the bottom.  Gently smooth vegetable mixture on top of grits.  Top with remaining grits as completely as possible.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  13. When baking is complete, turn off oven, crack open and let rest in oven to cool for 10 minutes.  Serve.

Now that gardening season is creeping ever closer, consider giving this vegetable a try.  So good.  Why not make a spot in your garden for some new and unusual greens this summer?

Seed Sources:

Evergreen Seeds

Kitazawa Seed Co.

and my favorite local seed company:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds




4 responses to “Taiwan Spinach

  1. That image is regular spinach not amaranth! It may be an Asian variety, but it’s definitely not amaranth.

    • I used the image from the website selling the seeds that produced the vegetable I was trying to share information on. In Linnean classification, vegetables are sorted by part eaten. Leaf vegetables therefore are classified in a group together. One of the side effects of this is that the varieties of different vegetables whether they are beets, amaranth, spinach, or other greens often look similar in early stages. Since the mature product is what is selected for when saving seed, the differentiation might develop later in the life cycle of the plant. My goal in writing this post was to expose a vegetable that I regularly enjoy that is uncommon. To meet that goal, I sourced the seed and based the information on industry packages to make it easier for the reader to obtain and grow the seeds. My goal was not to write a thesis on the specific taxonomy of the plant. I wanted to make it friendly and accessible. I feel that matching the information to the seed on sale is the best way to achieve that goal. Taiwan spinach is a hybrid and that further obfuscates the issues around proper identification. Many people in the sustainable living movement do not even want to grow hybrids due to seed saving or confusing over genetic manipulation. I just fundamentally feel this is a tasty hybrid and did my best to present it in a way that people could digest the information and use it. The photograph matches what I eat and again it was straight off a seed packet for the seeds I was attempting to write about. I could research and outline the issues involved in identification and classification and the specific plants involved in creating the hybrid, but honestly it’s taxing and time consuming and doesn’t further enhance encouraging people to try out a new vegetable. If my intent had been to do an in depth exploration of this specific plant it might have been interesting. I try not to geek too hard on botany on this blog however as I could easily slip over the edge and bore people to death.

  2. Oh, and the temperature for germination is way off – it’s a hot weather crop and grows best at 70 -80 degrees of soil temp to germinate. It’s so easy, it is better to just seed outdoors anyway.

    • I used the information available to me through the seed catalogs, a book called Cornucopia, and the plants for a future database. Seed is very forgiving. If this is indeed the hot weather spinach that your comments indicate that you feel it is, then yes, that germination is seemingly more accurate. In my region of Missouri however, the seeds that match the vegetable I was trying to promote are slightly smaller and do better with a lower germination temperature that matches the industry literature. I have found lower germination rates on this seed at the higher temperatures. The ordering information is from last year and it seems that this hybrid is no longer available on the links provided. Hopefully, there is enough information here that readers can source some seeds, or even find something similar and substitute it for a new taste on their table when eating greens.

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