Pigweed is an annual leafy green that can refer to a number of wild weedy plants. The most commonly found pigweed varieties in the culinary world are redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) and simply pigweed, or bathua in Hindi, a vegetable widely used in Northern Indian dishes.
Both types of pigweed are found in all parts of the world, although the amaranth variety is known to be native to South America, where it has been used by many indigenous populations throughout history both for their leaves and seeds.
The nutritional benefits of pigweed
Like most other leafy green vegetables, pigweed is packed with nutrients. It is rich in vitamins C and A, as well as carotene, folate and calcium. Pigweed is also a very good source of iron.
What does pigweed taste like?
Pigweed tastes similar to other green vegetables, chard in particular, although its texture tends to be more delicate. It is important to use only the younger, softer leaves as more mature leaves tend to be bitter. Make sure you remove the flowers.
How to Cook Pigweed
Pigweed can grow to 2-3 metres high and are generally found in gardens, cultivated or abandoned fields. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, due to its mild flavour, it is adaptable to many dishes. The seeds on the other hand are known to be highly nutritious and can be ground into a powder and used as a cereal substitute, treated simply as any other grain similar to quinoa.
Here are three easy pigweed recipes that highlight this very versatile wild vegetable.
Healthy green smoothie with pigweed, spinach, fresh fruit and chia seeds
A healthy smoothie recipe with apple, pear and dates. Easily add a couple of slices of pineapple and orange if you prefer.
1 large or 2 smaller servings
1 cup coconut water
Handful of pigweed and spinach mix
1 tbs chia seeds
2-3 dates or honey to sweeten
Add coconut water and greens to the blender and blend until the leaves are liquified. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Vegan pigweed soup with leek, courgette and coconut milk with croutons
A fragrant, vegan soup that won’t leave you hungry. Pigweed is the perfect match for zucchini and immediately improves the nutritional profile of this easy soup.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 leek topped and tailed, finely sliced
1 medium potato peeled, diced
1 large courgette zucchini, diced
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable broth
1 14 oz (400 g) can coconut milk
7 oz (200 g) fresh pigweed
salt and pepper to season
Stale bread, diced
Pinch of dried herbs
Salt to season
In a bowl, toss the bread with a drizzling of olive oil, herbs and salt. Fry on a non-stick pan until crunchy and golden brown. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot. Bloom the spices by adding to the oil and stir for about a minute.
Add the leek, potato, courgette and chilli and stir to coat evenly. Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook for five minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil then simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the potato is cooked through.
Add the pigweed and combine. Let simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Carefully transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Serve the soup topped with the croutons.
Pigweed and feta cheese dip with crisp focaccia soldiers
A delicious creamy dip that you can make ahead for any dinner party. Substitute Greek yoghurt for some of the ricotta if you want to make this even lighter.
200 g pigweed
7 oz (200 g) fresh ricotta
7 oz (200 g) feta, crumbled
1 spring onion
Handful of fresh dill, chopped
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of salt
Loaf of focaccia, or bread of choice, cut into strips
Place the pigweed in a medium saucepan on low heat. Cover with a lid and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted. Add a tablespoon of water if you wish to help it steam. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Let cool. Squeeze any excess liquid out by using your hands. Transfer to a food processor.
Add the ricotta (or Greek yoghurt, if using), feta, spring onion, dill, lemon juice and garlic and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat the grill on high, or preheat the broiler in the oven. Brush the sides of the bread with oil. Toast bread on grill, or in oven (on a tray placed closest as possible to the broiler), until golden.