New Zealand spinach

New Zealand Spinach: New Greens

New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand spinach in the garden

Tired of your spinach plants bolting before you get to enjoy them in your salads? Why not plant New Zealand spinach this spring.

New Zealand spinach is also known as Warrigal greens, Warrigal cabbage, kōkihi, sea spinach, Botany Bay spinach, tetragon and Cook’s cabbage.

It is a warm season alternative to regular spinach that does well in hot, dry conditions. Unlike regular spinach, you’ll have a crop that takes you through the entire summer. New Zealand spinach is a tender perennial that is generally planted as an annual.

Unlike regular spinach it is not frost tolerant. I have had the plants winter over in very mild winters here on the west coast.

Planting tips

Hold off on sowing seeds directly into the garden until the danger of frost has passed. Soak the seeds overnight to hasten germination, which can take up to 3 weeks. Alternatively, start the plants indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost date, and transplant them into the garden when they are two to three inches tall. New Zealand spinach prefers richly organic well drained soils, so add some well composted manure or organic matter to your soil before you seed.

Space your plants with 3 feet between the rows, and thin the plants with 12 inch spacing in the rows. New Zealand spinach is a spreading plant, and will fill the space quite quickly. Although it is drought tolerant, you will get the most flavor if you water it consistently. Mulch between the rows and plants to control weeds and to help retain moisture.

Seed to harvest is generally around 60 days. Gather the new tips and young leaves to encourage new growth and spreading. Cut the tips back about 4 inches so new growth can replace the older leaves. Pick the leaves and young shoots of this trailing plant regularly to lengthen the harvest.

Nutritionally, New Zealand spinach is valued because of its high vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin C content. It is low in fat and fiber content. New Zealand spinach does have a high oxalate content, which could be dangerous at high concentrations. To avoid  ingesting too much oxalate, simply blanch the leaves for 3 minutes, drain them and then refresh the greens in iced water before eating. Blanching makes the nutrients more easily absorbed by the body. However, it can still be used as a salad green occasionally. I have found it makes a much better cooked green than regular spinach.

You will find that the plants need regular applications of nitrogen rich fertilizer monthly. Otherwise, it will seed early. New Zealand spinach does very well in warm summer months and into the fall. With rapid growth and a disease and insect resistant nature, this plant will soon become one of your favourite greens.

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