Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Zealand Spinach

What fresh produce from the garden do you still have in the refrigerator or root cellar?  It's January and in my refrigerator I still have carrots, beets, potatoes, and New Zealand spinach.  New Zealand Spinach is a great fresh green for late summer, fall, and winter months.

New Zealand spinach is not in the same family as spinach but is used like spinach.  It is actually the only vegetable in the Tetragoniaceae family.  Like spinach the leaves are high in oxalic acid so it is a good substitute for spinach.  But unlike spinach it is heat tolerate and considered a warm season crop.  So you can have a spinach substitute late in the season.

New Zealand spinach it is not a cool season crop.  It will not tolerate a frost and prefers a warm soil to germinate.  It is a beautiful plant and could be used in flower boxes.  The plant forms vines with deep green, spear shaped leaves.  The flowers are small, greenish yellow and not at all showy.  The flowers are self fertile.

In warmer climates it can be a perennial but here in Zone 5 it is an annual.  Direct seed in the garden in full sun 12" apart.  It will sprawl and spill over your boxes or you can trellis it.  Plant when soil warms 75-80 degrees which will probably be sometime in May.

Individual leaves can be harvested at any time.  Right before a frost, harvest and bag the leaves in Ziplock baggies, do not rinse until you are ready to eat them.  They store well this way in the vegetable bin of you refrigerator.  

New Zealand spinach with Swiss cheese and our eggs. Yum!

I like to use the leaves in omelets, smoothies, and mixed greens salads.  The leaves could also be dehydrated and used like kale.

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