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New Zealand spinach, Warragul greens

New Zealand spinach, Warragul greens

Story and photos by Russ Grayson

Common name: New Zealand spinach; Warragul greens; Botany Bay spinach.

Botanical name: Tetragonia tetragonioides

Growth form/conditions: Sprawling perennial groundcover with thick leaves lanceolate in shape. Small yellow flowers. Grows in sandy soils and in full sun or light shade. Commonly found in coastal ecosystems, sand dunes behind beaches and in riverine estuaries in Australia, where it is a native plant.

The leaf and soft stem are eaten after blanching or cooking. The tiny yellow flowers are visible in the photo.

Reproduction: From seed.

Centre of diversity/plant distribution: Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southeast and East Asia.

Uses:

  • food
  • groundcover.

Edible part: Leaf and adjacent  stem.

Caution: Blanch or cook before eating to break down crystals of oxalic acid that can cause irritation.

Tetragonia tetragoniodes forms a low ground cover that stabilises soils against erosion.

Uses in food garden design: 

  • edible, perennial groundcover
  • groundlayer to forest garden
  • use to stabilise soils, reduce the erosive impact of heavy rain, retain soil moisture and shade soils to reduce high summer temperatures.

Notes: May be less vigorous growth in the cool season. Reportedly used by Captain James Cook’s crew to combat scurvy on arrival at Botany Bay, Australia, in 1770. Expedition botanist, Joseph Banks, took seeds back to Kew Gardens in London.

New Zealand spinach is grown in a number of countries and has been commercially cropped in Europe. It is a common plant of the coastal zone and is wild-harvested.

If wild harvesting does not over-harvest so as there is some left for others and to avoid environmental damage.

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