Magenta spreen (Chenopodium giganteum) is a delicious spring vegetable readily available from my garden. It is a close relative (same genus) of lamb’s quarters and quinoa.
It self-sows abundantly but is easy to control. You can harvest the vigorous seedlings to use as you would spinach. It’s mild-flavoured and doesn’t become bitter with age. The young leaves show this startling magenta colour that tends toward amaranth red as the plant matures. In small quantities it can be eaten raw, but in large quantities it should be boiled two minutes to remove oxalic acid.
In my Ontario garden it is tolerant of hot sun and drought. In Mediterranean climates it prefers the shade. Insects don’t bother it much here. By midsummer I reduce the population to one architectural plant that may grow taller than me.
That single individual sows all the spring greens I want. They germinate before anything else, adding incentive for me to start weeding the garden early.
Such an easily grown vegetable can support food security in our communities. Apparently the seeds can be used like quinoa, but I haven’t tried it yet. Speaking of volunteers, here’s some dill.