Unrelated to ordinary Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonoides ‘New Zealand Spinach’ is an interesting alternative that has the virtue of not minding hot weather. Considered a 'summer spinach', it thrives in hot, dry weather, is drought-tolerant and doesn’t bolt so you can have spinach all summer when true spinach varieties are harder to grow.
New Zealand Spinach plants form a mat of triangular soft fleshy foliage with a crystalline appearance. They look fantastic cascading over the side of planters or used as a living mulch, left to rambling around under your veggies to keep the soil moist.
With fleshy, green leaves it has a flavour and appearance that resembles Spinach so much that most people will not be aware of the difference. It can be eaten raw as a simple salad green or can be cooked like any other spinach.
When true spinach varieties start to bolt, New Zealand spinach will start to explode. It will give succulent leaves and stem tips throughout the season, continuing long after other varieties have finished. It can be harvested repeatedly until the plant is cut down by frost.
High in Vitamins A and C, New Zealand Spinach was discovered and eaten by Captain Cook and his crew to combat scurvy during their South Seas expedition. Botanist Joseph Banks brought the seeds back to London's Kew Gardens in 1771. New Zealand spinach now grows in countries like England, France, Japan, Chile, Argentina, and the U.S.
New Zealand spinach is suited either to growing as a vegetable in the veggie garden, or as a fast growing groundcover in well-drained, dryish conditions. It works extremely well in an aquaponics setup.
It doesn't have a high nutrient demand, so planting after legumes should be avoided. It prefers full sun, excess moisture and shade can result in problems with mildew. The plant is also suited to frontline coastal dune plantings, where it will help to bind the sand and prevent erosion.
Sow early indoors 3 to 4 weeks before last frost to transplant if you want to get an early crop going. Or sow directly outdoors after all threat of frost, from early spring through to late summer
Before sowing, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours otherwise germination will be slower and more sporadic
Sow the seeds directly where they are to grow. Sow 12mm (½in) deep and space 30cm (12in) apart in loose soil enriched with compost and composted manure. Water them and simply let them do their thing.
The plants have a low growing, trailing habit, pinching out the growing point will encourage bushiness.
The plants can tolerate some drought but in hot weather will do better with regular garden watering. They would also benefit from a good layer of mulch to preserve moisture and soil nutrition.
The plants can be fed occasionally with any organic fertiliser but if the soil has been prepared nicely, you won’t have to feed them during the growing season.
Harvesting: 50 to 70 days.
Stems tips and leaves can be harvested once the plants are established. Use as a cut and come again vegetable, the more you pick, the more the plant produces. It can be harvested repeatedly until the plant is cut down by frost.
Add leaves to stir fry’s, salads, stuffings, stews and soups. Use wherever a recipe calls for spinach.
One thing to be aware of: older leaves in particular can have high levels of oxalate, a chemical that is responsible for kidney stones. Rhubarb and spinach also have high levels of oxalate. It is recommended that if you are going to use older leaves that they are blanched in hot water for a few minutes prior to use to extract out the oxalates. Young leaves appear to be less of a problem.
As the common name implies, the plant is native to New Zealand and Australia, where it grows on coastal dunes and bluffs. It has a scattered distribution on mainland Tasmania, being recorded from Rechereche Bay in the south to Stanley. It is more common on the Bass Straight Islands. On the mainland it has a coastal distribution in the SE, but, interestingly, penetrates into the dry interior in SA and Queensland. It also grows in New Zealand, and has become naturalised in some other countries.
It is a member of the largely South African Aizoaceae family which is the largest family of succulent plants.
The genus name 'Tetragonia' literally means 'four-angled' and refers to the shape of the fruit. Tetra is Greek for four and gonia means angle
The species name tetragonoides means ‘like the genus Tetragonia’ or literally the Tetragonia that looks like Tetragonia
This apparent absurdity stems from the plant originally being described (in 1781) as being in a different genus, and when it was shifted into Tetragonia the species name had to be retained.
Other common names include Warrigal greens, Sea spinach, Tetragon, Botany Bay spinach, and Cook's cabbage.
Tetragonia tetragonioides has a long history of European use. It was used by early French and English explorers as an important food source, and is reputed to have saved Captain Cook’s 1770 Endeavour voyage in New Zealand from the ravages of scurvy.
The French explorers who spent considerable time at Recherche Bay in Southern Tasmania are also known to have eaten the plant. Both the English and French explorers took seeds home, and the species was soon introduced into cultivation in Europe, where it is still grown as a green vegetable. For a long time Tetragonia tetragonioides was the only food plant available in Europe to have come from Australia or New Zealand.
There are a number of sea vegetables that are considered to be delicacies in modern cuisine. Their nutritional value, taste and ease of growing make these crops incredibly popular.
Known as Halophytes or 'salt-tolerant' plants, they have adapted to grow in grows in areas of high salinity either directly in salt water or in coastal areas. They are not ‘salt-loving’ plants and do not have to be grown in saline environments.
Crops such as Salicornia (Sea Samphire), Crithmum (Rock Samphire), Sea Kale (Crambe), Salsola komarovii (Okahijiki) and Salsola soda (Agretti), Sea Aster (Aster tripolium), Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima), Tetragonia (New Zealand Spinach), Saltbush (Orach) and Alexanders (Smyrnium) can be grown at home or foraged from the wild.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 5 grams Average Seed Count 70 seeds Seeds per gram 14 seeds per gram Common Name Sea Spinach, Warrigal Greens
Other Common Names Botany Bay Spinach, and Cook's Cabbage Family Aizoaceae Genus Tetragonia Species tetragonoides Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Position Full sun preffered Time to Sow Indoors:3 to 4 weeks before last frost. Outdoors: Early spring through to late summer Germination 7-14 Days