NZH. Native to eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand, this plant has been growing wild on our coastlines for centuries. Some botanists argue that the plant may have evolved from a wild plant that floated from Africa over to Australia, naturalizing and transforming. Also called Warrigal greens, Māori spinach, Native Australian Bushtucker, Sydney greens, Cook's Cabbage, Sea Spinach, Tetragon, and in Māori, Kōkihi or Tutae-ikamoana. Some believe Māori did eat kōkihi more regularly than some sources, who say it was rarely eaten until the arrival of Europeans. According to Murdoch Riley, author of Māori Healing Remedies - Rongoā Māori, NZ Spinach was consumed regularly and "to counteract the bitterness of the older leaves of this herb, the Māori boiled it with the roots of the convolvulus (pōhue/NZ Bindweed)”. The first written record of NZ Spinach was documented in 1770 when Captain James Cook arrived with his crew from England to Botany Bay, Australia. Legend has it that Cook’s crew consumed New Zealand spinach on their journey to avoid getting scurvy. Seeds were also taken back to Kew Gardens in England, where they were planted in 1772. In the 19th century, New Zealand spinach spread throughout Europe and became a popular plant in Victorian gardens. The species was also introduced to the USA and was featured in home garden catalogues in the 1880s, later fading into obscurity. It is rumoured to have been one of the deciding factors in establishing Australia as a new British outpost. In 1783, officer James Matra proposed that English prisoners be sent to an outpost at Botany Bay. Botanist Joseph Banks agreed with Matra citing in front of the House of Commons Committee a plant similar in flavour and texture to spinach was plentiful throughout Botany Bay and would be an excellent food source for the convicts. The mention of NZ Spinach is thought by historians to have helped sway the vote. A perennial plant in coastal frost-free climates, frost tender and will behave as an annual if grown in colder climates. We have tried for years to grow this to seed and only succeeded after planting a winter crop in our tunnel and letting it grow all winter and it finally set seed at the end of summer! We have overwintered it in our food forest as well as the trees provide protection from the frost. A trailing plant that forms a mat of triangular soft fleshy foliage with a crystalline appearance, giving succulent leaves and stem tips throughout the season, continuing long after other varieties have finished. In fact, the more you pick, the more the plant produces. To encourage growth, pinch tips off and enjoy raw or cooked as you would most garden greens. A source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, manganese, folic acid, B vitamins, phosphorus, and riboflavin and vitamin C. Must note that NZ Spinach as with some other greens contains oxalic acid, an organic compound that may be harmful if ingested in large quantities and can build up in the body and contribute to kidney stones. Cooking the greens reduces this risk significantly. As with everything, moderation is key.
Sow in spring. These seeds have inherent low germination rate to improve germination, soak seeds in cold water for 12 hrs or warm water for 3-4 hrs prior to planting. Then scatter sow into trays, prick out at 4cm diagonal spacing when true leaves emerge. Transplant into fertile soil at 30cm diagonal spacing. Mature plants will self-seed. Seeds will overwinter in frost free zones. Few insects consume it, and even slugs and snails do not seem to feed on it. It is a halophyte and grows well in saline ground.