Vlita are nearly every Greeks favorite greens. Because they are hard to find in the US, they tend to create nostalgia among us Greek Americans.
I had visited my friend Mary the other day, and her husband offered to cut me a few bunches from their garden. They are apparently quite easy to grow!
Vlita is what Greeks call amaranthus blitum, also known as purple amaranth. Stateside, it can be found in Asian markets as Chinese red spinach, and it is used in the traditional Caribbean dish called Callaloo.
In the United States it is actually much easier to find amaranth seeds as they are often used to create gluten free foods. I have seen them at nearly all markets. It is a rediscovered ancient grain that is often found in celiac friendly & paleo cereals and granolas.
However, Greeks don’t eat this grain! We go for the whole plant instead!
And it is so simple to cook too! Greeks have a real love affair with boiled greens, that we categorize as horta. There are a large variety of greens that we eat this way, including spinach, swiss chard, and dandelion greens. They are served with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, an ample squeeze of fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and salt if your taste buds require it. They can be eaten hot or cold. And they will be served as either a main course or a side dish. More often than not they are the main course. Usually with a slice of rustic bread for dipping, and big slice of feta cheese.
Plus they are high in vitamins, A, B, C, K, potassium, protein, calcium & fiber. Their nitrates can also help with controlling blood pressure, reduce risks of glaucoma & are very heart healthy. They are also rich in iron. And Vlita help regulate insulin levels and are very satiating.
They really are a super food!
a few bunches of vlita
extra virgin olive oil
Rinse the leaves of the vlita under cold water. They do collect dirt in the garden so definitely give them a good rinse! You will be cooking the whole plant, including the stem.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add in your vlita, and cook with lid on. They are ready when the stems are fork tender. Remove from the pot and serve them right away. You can also enjoy the leftovers cold.
Drizzle your extra virgin olive oil, squeeze your lemon & enjoy!