Garden and Nature in Words

How to Grow New Zealand Spinach

This Perennial Spinach is a Winner

The first time I saw NZ Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) was at the home of a local permaculturist, Keith (from the South East Suburbs Permaculture Group). There was a sunny spot at the back of the yard, and some unusual looking plant had almost covered over an entire garden bed. It didn’t have any snail or slug damage (couldn’t say the same for the potato leaves growing right next to it), and the leaves had a deep green glow to them that screamed of health.

So I asked Keith what it was, this plant that was snail proof and growing like a weed. He told me the plant was called Warrigal Greens and that it was a native kind of spinach, and he had a whole jar full of seeds for me! They are an unusually shaped seed, like an arrow head, and very hard. Keith told me to soak them in warm water overnight, which I did, and planted them into a standard seedling mix, covered over leafmold and left for a couple of weeks to sort themselves out.

Watching them didn’t seem to make them germinate any quicker, but it did not stop me from doing it. No they did it all by themselves, that little magic trick when the seed embryo begins its journey out into a big big world.

The seedling quickly developed, going from not there one week then out of the old coffee cup and into the ground the next. From there it very quickly establishes itself without fear of other plants, bugs, sun, drought, flood, or any of the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It could be one of the most lovely of all the perennial plants in my garden, or at least closer in overall benefit to the Jerusalem artichoke than anything else.

My really top favorite thing about NZ Spinach is that it tastes as good as common spinach (Spinacia oleracea), so it is immediately useful and productive for a  meal that Popeye would be happy with: high yield.

The second favorite thing is how it has become my most useful ground cover, quickly replacing Pepino in that role while being far more productive, and self seeding. It is also a heap easier to compost – plus the chickens and quail have taken to it, and turn it into a totally different type of fertilizer.

Here we have enough spinach for 3  people, with plenty growing for another day. The plant will develop a large number of seeds as it grows, to the point where it will self seed as successfully as the nasturtiums do. This becomes a time saver leading into Spring, when there is already so much to do with limited time.

If anything, it might be a question of where I don’t want them to grow. And having those artichokes has taught me the importance of controlling the spread of potential weed species  – it only takes a minute to pull up some stray seedlings but many hours to restock a garden overrun.

a Genziuk with crop of warrigal greens grown in backyard

This is a good example of how large the leaves become when the plant has ready access to water and nutrients. Warrigal Greens in an aquaponics setup works extremely well, and perhaps the best growing plant in the grow bed.

growing NZ spinach aquaponics

Oxalic acid is in Warrigal Greens just like in regular spinach, and that should be blanched out if eaten in any large quantity. I’ll normally do this in a frypan  then as the water boils off, will throw in a chunk of butter and sauté till soft – add some salt to taste and there it is. Further to this was added some bacon and eggs – yogurt (from memory), cucumber and tomato. Yum.

cooking warrigal greens

Now we have some happy snaps of how NZ spinach grows in a natural habitat – at the beach! You can see how small those leaves are, reflective of the availability of water, now contrast that with the photos above. As I was taking these photos I also took the time to dig under the plants and see what the roots were growing in – dry sand.

OK folks, so now you know. Still plenty of time to get this growing in your own yard – well worth a try if you can find some seed.

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6 thoughts on “How to Grow New Zealand Spinach

  1. Pingback: The Mad Adventures of Chilli the Blind Chicken – Part 1 | Ground to Ground

  2. Pingback: Chicken Eggs from the Suburbs | Ground to Ground

  3. Interesting information on New Zealand spinach. Some gardener’s use a remedy of egg shells (placing them directly into the garden) for slugs or beer (in a small lid placed into the garden) works too. Have fun blogging.

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  4. Thanks for the link back to my post on Not Dabbling in Normal.

    My mom and I were talking about NZ spinach this winter and I had hopes of planting it this spring…. that hasn’t happened yet, so it is on my long list for next year. Greens just don’t grow here in the hot dry summer, so this would be perfect! Yours looks beautiful!

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    • Thanks Emily, and not a problem with the link – enjoy your writing.

      Yes indeed, the NZ Spinach is a winner. Tastes great, snail proof, and seems to do just fine heading into a Melbourne Winter. In fact it is growing faster now than it was in Spring. And those chicken eggs have glowing yellow yolks beacuse of it. Thanks for stopping by ;)

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