Vlita pr. VLEE-ta (in Greek βλίτα or βλήτα) is one of the varieties of “horta” or greens, which both leaves and tender shoots, are boiled and served as a salad, well known in Greek cuisine for its high nutritional value.
Amaranthus blitum, var. silvestre, commonly called purple amaranth or Guernsey pigweed, livid amaranth, slender amaranth (En.); amarante livide (Fr.); bledo (Sp.). is an annual plant species in economically important plant family Amaranthaceae.
It is native to the Mediterranean region, but it has been naturalized in other parts of the world, including eastern North America. Although weedy, it is eaten in many parts of the world.
“Amaranth” derives from Greek ἀμάραντος (amárantos), “unfading”, with the Greek word for “flower”, ἄνθος (ánthos), factoring into the word’s development as amaranth. Amarant is an archaic variant.
Vlita grow during summer and are characterized as weeds of other plantations. They grow and multiply easily, so if we plant a few, we will have a crop each year.
Nutritional value of Vlita per 100 gr of cooked greens:
- Calories: 28
- Protein: 2 gr.
- Carbohydrates: 4 gr.
- Fat: 0 gr.
- Fibre: 2 gr.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin Α
- Vitamin B complet (Folate, Niain, Riboflavin an Pyridoxine.
- Calcium, Iron, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, phosfphte, Zinc, copper & Manganese.
Here are some of the most important properties of Vlita (amaranth greens):
- Vlita (amaranth greens) can improve the immune system.
- They have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- They can help regulate blood pressure, prevent osteoporosis and heart disease. They are an excellent dietary source of phytosterols, which reduce blood pressure and prevent heart disease and stroke.
- They are good food for those who want to maintain or reduce their weight, but also for those who have problems with constipation.
- One of the main advantages of Vlita, is their ability to reduce LDL-bad cholesterol levels in the blood due to tocotrienol, a subgroup of vitamin E, as well as due to the fiber they contain.
- They cover 90% of our daily needs in vitamin C and 73% of vitamin A, 57% of manganese and 19% of folic acid. It is also a source of calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
- They are ideal for people with anemia because they are rich in iron. A portion of 132 grams of boiled greens provide 17% of the recommended daily intake of iron.
- They contain lysine (an essential amino acid) which in combination with vitamin E, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and vitamin C, help fight the free radicals responsible for aging and malignant cells.
- They are ideal for people which follow a gluten free diet. People who are gluten-intolerant or suffer from celiac disease can eat Vlita. A portion of 132 g. boiled vlita provide 6% of the recommended daily intake of protein.
- With 28 only calories per 100 gr. and a low glycemic index, they are ideal for those on a diet!
- Some varieties are cultivated for their seeds and the flour produced makes a more nutritious alternative than regular flour.
Adverse Side effects
- Like some other green leafy vegetables, amaranth leaves do contain moderate levels of oxalates. For this reason, those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, gouty (uric) arthritis or from kidney stones or gallstones, amaranth could exacerbate these conditions and should be avoided.
- Allergies to amaranth are rare, but they do occasionally occur. The allergic reaction will often occur within minutes, but it is rarely severe. Be sure to consult a medical professional before adding amaranth into your diet and consider undergoing an allergy panel to be sure.
- It is not suitable for fresh consumption due to relatively high levels of hydrocyanic acid and oxalic acid.
- It is advisable not to reheat the greens after cooking them because because the nitrate salt they contain are converted into nitrites, which are harmful to health, especially to children.
How to clean and cook vlita
- Try buying vlita while they are still fresh and tender. Discard any wilted or yellowish leaves.
- Fill your sink basin or a very large bowl with water and add some vinegar, (about 1 tbsp for 1 litre of water and let the leafy greens soak for half an hour in the water. (This is done in case there are bugs on the greens, which will float on top).
- Remove them from the basin and discard the water.
- Then rinse them twice.
- As you are rinsing them, cut off the thicker stems, which cook 5 – 10 minutes before adding the leaves. Woody stems, should be discarded.
- For tender shoots and leaves, boil them in hot, salted water for 5 – 10 minutes (depending on how tender they are).
How to serve Vlita
There are two ways this salad is served in Greece.
One is with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and pound garlic (called skordostoumpi – σκορδοστούμπι, which is a garlicky vinaigrette dressing) and the other is with extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice, called ladolemono.
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 pinhes of salt
- Freshly grated pepper to taste (optional)
Put the garlic and two pinches of salt in a mortar and using the pestle pound it into a smooth paste.
Transfer the paste into a shaker or a container with a lid, add the olive oil, vinegar and season with pepper. Shake well until an emulsion is formed.
(Alternatively, you call add all the ingreients in a food processor and mix until well blended).
I usually prefer the second dressing on my salad in which I also add some oregano as well, which I love.
Vlita salad is usually served with grilled meat or fish but they are also delicious with many more dishes.
However, they also pair well with legumes. You can use them as a spinach substitute during the hot and dry summer months.
Personally, I’ve paired them with black-eyed peas, with chickpeas and with white beans.
I have cooked Vlita so many times, that I have made so many twists to this classic salad.
I have added some boiled potatoes and zucchini and served them with olive oil, lemon juice and some grated feta on top.
When we want to eat it as a main dish, I also like to add some nuts in the salad as well and we usually accompany it with some fresh marinated anchovies.
I love adding zucchini to this salad as I find that the sweetness of zucchini balances the strong flavour of the greens. If the zucchini are fresh and still have flowers on them, if you don’t know what to do with them, you can boil them as well.
However, the flowers need just a couple of minutes cooking, so these are added just before the leaves are cooked.
My latest addition was pairing them with the Peppermint and Basil Pesto I recently made.
Pesto has garlic in it which pairs well with vlita and the aroma of Peppermit and Basil make them even more delicious!
Basil and Peppermint Pesto
- 15 large basil leaves
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 sprigs peppermint
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup graviera cheese
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- Salt and pepper
Vlita Salad (Amaranth Greens) and How to Serve Them
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 1/2 kilo of vlita (Amaranth)
- 1/2 kilo small zucchini
- Zucchini Flowers (if any)
- 2 litres of water
- 1 tbsp salt
Peppermint and Basil Pesto (or other pesto of your choice)
Ladolemono Dressing: Extra Virgin Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano (no mustard)
Skordostoumpi: Extra Virgin Olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper
- Clean the vegetables and remove any wilted leaves.
- In a large bowl or basin put water with vinegar (5 litres water to 4 tbsp wine vinegar) and let the leafy greens soak for half an hour in the water. Remove from the basin and discard the water. (This is done in case there are bugs on the greens). Then rinse them twice. Cut off the thicker stems.
- Wash the zucchini and cut the two edges.
- Remove the back side of the zucchini flower as well as the stamen.
- Bring the water to a boil, add salt and cook the zucchini and the thick stems, first. After five minutes test with a fork to see if the zucchini can be pierced. Once the fork can penetrate add the leafy greens and boil for 7-10 minutes (depending on how tender they are).
- Just before the end add the zucchini flowers and boil for 1 minute.
- Let them strain in colander and cool.
- Cut the leafy greens into smaller pieces as well as the zucchini.
- Serve the salad, warm or cold with any of the above dressings.
Note: if you are on a diet to lose weight, add only one tbsp olive oil or pesto per portion.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!