Spinach in Summer: New Zealand Spinach

 New Zealand Spinach
Tetragonia tetragonioides

Native to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Chile and Argentina, this plant was overlooked as a food until Captain Cook’s scurvy-ridden crew from the Endeavor found it growing throughout the region of the South Seas. They took it with them on the boat and it made it’s way back to the old world where it became more popular. It is occasionally referred to as tetragon, warrigal greens and sea spinach.

An extremely nutritious leafy vegetable, New Zealand spinach has  an edge over spinach. It loves hot weather. When spinach starts to bolt, New Zealand spinach will start to explode.

Prepare a bed of average garden soil, preferably not where peas or beans have been growing. New Zealand spinach does not love high amounts of nitrogen. Peas and beans work with microorganisms to create nitrogen, an effect that leaves the soil enriched even after you have harvested and pulled plants up. This is normally a good thing, but for plants that don’t want a ton of nitrogen, this is not optimal.

Full sun is preferred for New Zealand spinach. If there is too much shade, plants will be susceptible to mildew.

When you get seeds, soak them in water for 24 hours to soften the hard seed coat, or germination will be much slower and sporadic. Plant 1/2 in. deep in loose soil enriched with compost and composted manure. Space plants 3 feet between rows, and every 12 inches after thinning within rows. Plant in the spring after all threat of frost, or sow seeds indoors to transplant if you want to get an early crop going.

Occasional fertilization with any organic fertilizers is ok, but if the soil has been prepared nicely, you won’t have to feed plants much during the growing season. All plants benefit from a good layer of mulch to preserve moisture and soil nutrition. New Zealand Spinach will do better with regular garden watering, but can tolerate some drought.

There are few pests for this delicious vegetable. Occasionally leaf miners cause cosmetic damage on the leaves. Even slugs and snails seem to leave this one alone.

The sailors on the Endeavor prized this plant for a reason. It has high amounts of  antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin C. Harvest leaves throughout the growing season. At the very least you should blanch before eating in hot water for about 3 minutes. Like spinach, this species contains high amounts of oxalates.

Here is a delicious recipe for New Zealand Spinach and pasta (they call it tetragon in the article).

Try this source for seeds, Victory Seeds.

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