Favorite Plants- New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides.


When the lettuce wilts in the heat, caterpillars and aphids destroy the kale and your swiss chard is plagued by powdery mildew…. there is New Zealand spinach.
It is not a true spinach but is in a genus all its own. The leaves are triangular in shape, and very succulent. They grow on long, rambling stalks. The seeds are triangular as well and the plant will reseed if you let it. It tends to spread and grow low to the ground. It can be used as a living mulch since it so effectively covers the soil in a vegetable bed.
This green keeps on growing and seems to be unaffected by the bugs and problems that affect other greens. I have seen it growing wild among the rocks right along the ocean, so it can handle saline soils. This is a very robust plant. It tolerates drought, bugs, salt and poor soil. And it does much better in heat than true spinach which just bolts in Southern California’s heat. New Zealand spinach can be grown in the summer when other greens may not grow so well.
My front garden be is pretty much all New Zealand spinach now. The drip watering system broke and most of the plants withered and died or were mercilessly attacked by bugs. But this plant kept on going strong.
I have been growing it for many years and find it a reliable plant. In The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, Rosalind Creasy writes, “New Zealand spinach makes a marvelous temporary ground cover, is good in hanging baskets, and will cascade over the sides of planter boxes. Grow it on the patio so it will be close at hand to add to your morning scrambled eggs along with dill and cheese.”
I have so much in my garden right now that I may do a big harvest and blanch, chop and freeze it for later use. I make a lot of green lasagnas with massive quantities of NZ spinach. I saute it with onions and garlic and put thick layers of spinach sandwiched between noodles and cheese.

When life gives you greens, you can’t go wrong. I have heard that it is edible raw but I prefer it cooked.

Give it a try in your garden if you haven’t already.

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15 Comments

  1. I don’t know about it becoming invasive. I doubt it is the next kudzu. It does reseed. But it is not a very aggressive plant. I have seen it growing wild though. Best to keep it in the garden. The seeds are too heavy to be windblown so that is a plus.

  2. So *that*’s what it is. I grew up with my dad growing this in the yard here in Los Angeles, yet when I went off to college I thought the spinach in the stores looked nothing like the spinach I had when I was younger..

  3. It’s definitely nearly-indestructibly easy to grow and actually likes salty soils (and doesn’t seem fast-spreading enough to become invasive – at least in L.A.), but I find the taste rather bland. I should try it cooked… I only ate it raw.

    (Sorry – seems like I only weigh in here when I personally don’t like a plant!)

  4. I grew it for the first time this year and I had lots of problems with early blight AND powderly mildew on it. However, thankfully, the powdery mildew did not spread rapidly or go to all the plants. We had a very cool wet spring and summer here. Surprisingly, we had a light frost the other night and it is still standing. I had always heard it did not last into cool weather. Maybe the raised bed helped. don’t know.

    Be well.

  5. EVEN better than New Zealand Spinach for hot weather is Malabar Spinach! Unlike the fuzzy texture of NZ with MS you have a crisp, shiny, leaf that stir fires, steams, and shreds for salad. It will climb a trellis. Try it next year.

  6. I’m leaning toward the Malabar (because it sounds so much like “[Marsh]mallow Bars,” but Peaceful Petal is exceedingly gorgeous, and she spelled “Lasagna” correctly… which, as we all know, is not easy to do… so, I’ve put my SeedSaver.org order on hold…

    I would NOT want the wrong spinach-substitute growing in MY yard!

  7. New Zealand spinach has been present in coastal areas in small numbers in Sonoma And Marin counties in California where I live for many years. However it has of late become a serious pest plant in the San Pablo Bay area and the Farralons.

  8. In Australia New Zealand spinach is known as Waratah Greens and can be found growing on the edge of many beaches on the Eastern Border.

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