Theka (Amaranthus spinosus) – also said thepe, or isheke – is a vegetable mainly found in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northwest and Kwazulu Natal in South Africa.
Theka grows without being planted in the cultivated areas, especially by subsistence or peasants. This plant is small with green leaves, it doesn’t have seeds at all and it can grow throughout the year in the cultivated area, alongside maize and other vegetables. The farmers preserve theka when weeding their cultivated area because it can grow, even in large quantities, without causing any harm in the cultivated plants such as maize and other vegetables.
It is distributed almost countrywide in South Africa and it can be bought in street markets, street market eateries, and has never been sold in supermarkets.
It is a useful vegetable, to supplement people’s diet because it is a relish which is eaten with pap (a traditional maize meal), hot or cold, or as cooked salad with rice.
When the leaves of theka have been picked, preferably young fresh leaves, they have to be boiled in water with salt and tomatoes (optional) from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on recipes and the thickness of leaves.