New Zealand Spinach

The New Zealand spinach may look and taste like regular spinach, but is in fact quite different from it. This leafy groundcover is a pretty yummy and nutritious vegetable making its way to gardens and dinner plates alike. The fuzzy diamond shaped leaves of the New Zealand spinach can be prepared similarly like spinach; though it is important to remember that the two plants are not related.
New Zealand spinach acquires its origin from the islands of New Zealand. Warm climatic conditions favor this plant that seems to withstand conditions of heat and drought. However, the New Zealand spinach is not frost hardy; this is one such trait that distinguishes it from regular spinach.

New Zealand Spinach Scientific Name

The scientific term allotted to the New Zealand Spinach is Tetragonia tetragonioides.

New Zealand Spinach Description

The New Zealand spinach is a leafy vegetable that is widely grown as a tender annual in many parts of the world. It has weak and fragile stems.

This low-growing perennial plant has the tendency to spread several feet wide. Characteristic to most perennial plants and vegetables, the growth of the New Zealand spinach also lasts throughout the year.

New Zealand spinach Picture Picture 1 – New Zealand spinach

Color: Although there is a big contrast between the New Zealand Spinach and the regular spinach, the former also has the same brilliant green color.

Height: This perennial plant can grow up to 1 foot tall.

Leaves: One way of distinguishing between the regular spinach and the New Zealand Spinach is by their leaves. The leaves of the New Zealand Spinach are small and somewhat fuzzier than those of the regular spinach.

The leaves of the New Zealand Spinach plant are usually succulent (somewhat fat in dimension) and triangular in shape. These leaves can be pale to dark green in color. The leaves of this plant are noted to be 2-4 inches long.

Flower: This plant bears small yellow flowers.

New Zealand Spinach: Distribution

The New Zealand spinach was originally native to the coastal parts of New Zealand. Today it is cultivated in many regions of the world including Australia, Chile, Japan and Argentina.

Origin of New Zealand Spinach

The Maori people were the first to discover the New Zealand spinach; they referred to it as kokihi or rengamtu. Many coastal parts of New Zealand were home to this creeping plant prior to the colonial period. It was in the late 1700s, when this plant captured the attention of Captain Cook; Cook instantaneously recognized it to be a nutritious vegetable and gathered it for his crew members. This was how the New Zealand spinach got introduced to England, where it was first cultivated by Sir Joseph Banks.

This plant is known to have originated from New Zealand, thus the name.

New Zealand Spinach Varieties

The most common variety of New Zealand spinach is the ‘Maori’.

New Zealand Spinach Nutrition Facts

This vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals making it ideal for your health. Apart from this, it is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The chart below summarizes the nutrient composition as per 56 grams of New Zealand spinach.

Saturated fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 73 mg
Total carbohydrates 1.4 g
Protein 0.8 g
Calories 8
Vitamin A 49%
Vitamin C 28%
Calcium 3%
Iron 2%

New Zealand Spinach Cultivation

This plant requires these basic growing conditions.

Temperature: This warm weather annual grows best in temperatures ranging from 60 -70 Degrees Fahrenheit.

It is important to remember that the New Zealand spinach is not frost resistant plant like regular spinach. Thus it would be ideal to plant New Zealand spinach during the warmer parts of the year.

Though the plant prefers full sun, it is important to grow New Zealand spinach in partial shade areas especially during peak times of the summer heat.

Images of New Zealand spinachPicture 2 – New Zealand spinach Image

Soil: Moisture retentive, well- drained organic soil is best for the plant. In fact, soil containing a pH of 6.8 to 7.0 would be highly favorable for the growth of the New Zealand spinach.

Water: water is vital for the growth of New Zealand spinach. Make sure that the soil does not dry out. You are recommended to keep this plant regularly moist. Dressing the soil with fertilizer can also help retain the soil moisture.

New Zealand spinach is a drought tolerant plant. However subjected to conditions of drought, the plant would not yield tender or flavorful leaves.

How to Plant New Zealand Spinach?

Planting Time: New Zealand spinach prefers warm, frost-free weather. The time period during or after the average last frost in spring is regarded to be ideal to sow this plant outdoors.

However, please note that you ought to start indoor planting almost 2 – 3 weeks prior to the last frost in spring.

Sowing and Spacing: You are recommended to sow the spinach ½ inch deep in to the soil. Make sure you maintain a space of 2 – 4 inches apart between each plant. It is best to plant 3 seeds in each hill; thinning to the strongest plant.

Do not forget to set New Zealand spinach in hills, thereby allowing the weak stems of this plant to spread or sprawl.

Container Growing: This plant is well suited to container growing. Two plants each should be grown in a 5 gallon pot.

Maintenance and Care: Take care of the plant on a regular basis. Mulching the plant provides a protective covering over the soil that will help the plant retain moisture and also curb weed growth.

Harvest: You can harvest these greens approximately 55-65 days after sowing. It is the young leaves and tender leaf tips that deliver the best flavor. You are also recommended to stick to a cut-and-come-again harvest to ensure a long harvest of the New Zealand spinach.

How to store New Zealand Spinach?

You can store this vegetable inside a refrigerator, but only for a maximum period of 7 days.

New Zealand Spinach Uses

This plant basically serves two uses.

Culinary Use

The New Zealand spinach is widely cultivated for its edible leaves. These leaves can be cooked in the same procedure as that of spinach. It is best served steamed sautéed or slightly braised. The New Zealand Spinach does not taste that good when raw.

Ornamental Use

Many people also prefer to adorn their gardens with these plants. New Zealand spinach can turn out to be a pretty attractive ornamental plant especially for borders and beds, owing to their sprawling nature.

New Zealand Spinach Recipes

This vegetable is consumed by people around the world, for it mild flavor and thick texture. Some of the most popular dishes that are prepared using New Zealand spinach include Pasta with Tetragon (or New Zealand spinach), New Zealand spinach salad and Sichuan Wild Mushroom sauté with New Zealand spinach.

Please note that before cooking New Zealand spinach, it is necessary to blanch the leaves in hot water for a minute. Thereafter you must rinse it in cold water, prior to cooking. Doing so removes oxalate content present in the leaves of New Zealand spinach.

New Zealand Spinach Facts

It was Captain Cook who first brought this close replica of the spinach family to London, after the 1770 expedition.

The New Zealand spinach is one such perennial vegetable that is both drought and heat tolerant.

This plant simply cannot bear frost or conditions of frost.

The New Zealand spinach has a high content of iron, beta carotene and folate.

Botany bay spinach, Sea spinach, tetragon, Cook’s cabbage, Kohiki and warrigal greens are some other common names of the New Zealand spinach.

New Zealand Spinach Diseases

No known diseases have been associated with the New Zealand spinach till date.

New Zealand Spinach Side Effects

New Zealand Spinach is a safe and nutritious vegetable that does not have any side effects.

However, patients suffering from kidney stones are recommended to take doctor’s advice prior to consuming New Zealand spinach.

This vegetable is known to have minor traces of oxalate content in it. Oxalate is the primary constituent of kidney stones.

New Zealand Spinach Pictures

This is what the New Zealand spinach looks like.

Photos of New Zealand spinachPicture 3 – New Zealand spinach Photo

Pictures of New Zealand spinachPicture 4 – New Zealand spinach Picture


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