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Indian Keerai Spinach
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Indian Keerai spinach is a general term to classify Amaranth leaves in many Southeast Asian countries. The plant displays vibrant green, medium to large sized, broad, vaguely fan-shaped leaves. The leaves of the Indian Keerai spinach are slightly wrinkled at the leaf veins, with a prominent center rib. It has delicate and thin, crunchy, light green stems. They are sweet, but a little tangy and tastier than spinach. In India, they are loosely referred to as "keerai" or "spinach."
Indian Keerai spinach is available year-round.
Indian Keerai spinach is botanically known as Amaranthus, from the Amaranthaceae family. The Tamil word for greens is "keerai" and can be used to describe various greens from spinach to mustard greens. "Mulai Keerai" is used to describe amaranth at its early stages with the youngest and most tender leaves. "Arai Keerai" describes the amaranth leaves in its middles stages of growth and "Thandu Keerai" is the amaranth leaves at its most mature stage.
Indian Keerai spinach leaves are high in vitamin C, vitamin A and folate. They contain the same minerals as the amaranth grain; iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are also rich in calcium, protein and potassium. Their calcium content is so high that only two other vegetables contain more calcium - mache lettuce and grape leaves. Indian Keerai spinach leaves are rich in rutin, a flavonoid that has been researched as a potential dietary remedy for varicose veins as rutin helps strengthen capillary walls. Extracts from the amaranth leaf have also been studied in the United States for potential development of new medicines in the cardiology field.
Indian Keerai spinach leaves can be used in soups, stir-fries, rice dishes, dals, and curries. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Add the greens to salads or briefly sauté with oil similarly to spinach. In Indonesia, the leaves are dipped in a batter of diluted rice flour spiced with coriander, garlic and salt then fried until crisp. These are known as "crackers," and are a popular snack in the country. Complimentary flavors include bacon, ham, poultry, anchovies, garlic, onion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, lemon, mushrooms, oregano, dill, cumin, goat cheese, parmesan, ricotta, mustard, walnuts, and curries.
In Southeast Asian regions, Indian Keerai spinach is cooked as a daily vegetable dish. The leaves are fast-cooking, and often stir-fried with ikan bilis (anchovies) in Malaysian cuisine. In India, Indian Keerai spinach is fried as well, in cutlets or rice dishes. But it's more popularly cooked into dals and curries, or into Masiyal (mashed spinach dishes). In China, the leaves and stems can be used in clear soups with other ingredients like wolfberries or sauteed with century eggs. Traditionally, Indian Keerai spinach is believed to help cure coughs and bronchitis. Indian Keerai Amaranth is widespread and used much like spinach. The leaves are an important ingredient in Caribbean cooking, especially in the famous dish known as callaloo, a gumbo-like stew.
There are many varieties of amaranth, with around six commonly used around the Asian region and generally referred to as Keerai and Bayam. Indian Keerai spinach is considered a poor people's food, and can be found in India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and China. In other parts of the world, it is grown and used as a vegetable along with staple foods in Africa, South America and Greece. Amaranth is valued throughout the world as a grain, and very little attention is given to the greens. Yet throughout the world in some 50 countries, the leaves have been used historically as "pot herbs". The Indian Keerai spinach is grown commercially as a market vegetable. It is in Asia that the Indian Keerai spinach is grown most widely. In Indonesia, for example, some 20,000 hectares are planted a year. Varieties grown in China include pointed leaved, round leaved, red leaved, white leaved, and green leaved. The Taiwanese grow a type called "tiger leaf", which features green leaves with a red stripe.
Recipes that include Indian Keerai Spinach. One is easiest, three is harder.
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