As implied by its name, the New Zealand spinach is
native to the country of New Zealand. It looks like
a Spinacia oleracea or spinach, but its habits of
growth are very dissimilar.
Unlike the average spinach, New Zealand spinach can
survive unusually high temperatures (up to 35° C)
and is easily killed by a frost.
The New Zealand spinach is popularly grown in
tropical region of America precisely because of this
tolerance to heat.
The shoots and leaves are usually harvested and
cooked by boiling or used as an ingredient in
preparing fresh vegetable salads.
Tetragonia tetragonioides, formerly known as Tetragonia
expansa, is a foliaged ground cover more commonly known by
the names New Zealand Spinach, in Maori as Kokihi, Warrigal
Greens, Botany Bay Spinach, Sea Spinach, Cook's Cabbage, and
It is a species of spinach indigenous to New Zealand, Japan,
Australia, Argentina, and Chile.
This species of spinach was rarely utilized by the Maori or
other native people on the continent. The first mention of
it as a leaf vegetable was by Captain Cook.
This gained it instant popularity and the plant was
immediately harvested, cooked, and preserved to aid in
fighting scurvy, and shipped with the Endeavor’s crew.
It disseminated when the botanist
and explorer Joseph Banks brought seeds on his
return to Kew Gardens in the second half of the
eighteenth century. For two hundred years,
Tetragonia tetragonioides was the only naturalized
vegetable that came from New Zealand and Australia.
The New Zealand spinach prefers a humid environment
for development. The vegetable grows level to the
ground. Its leaves are 3 to 15 centimeters long,
shaped like a triangle and a vivid green.
Its leaves are dense, and spread
over with tiny appendages that resemble drops of
water on the top and bottom part of the leaves. Its
flowers are yellow, and its fruits are small, tough
pod shrouded with tiny horns. It is a vascular plant
and develops well on salty ground.
This spinach species is grown for its palatable leaves, and
can be harvested as food or as a decorative plant for
groundcover. As several of its names mean, it has similar
texture and flavor characteristics to spinach, and is
prepared like spinach, even though it has low to medium
amounts of oxalates which must to be removed by parboiling
the leaves in hot water for a minute, then washing in cold
water prior to cooking. It can be encountered as an
encroaching plant in South and North America, and has been
harvested along the rim of East Asian. It flourishes in hot
weather, and is believed to be a heritage vegetable. Very
few insects will come near it, and even snails and slugs and
will stay away from it.
The irregularly-shaped and thick seeds of this vegetable
should be planted right after the last frost of spring.
Prior to planting, the seeds should be drenched in cold
water for half a day or three hours in warm water. They
should be planted 5 to 10 millimeters deep, and spaced 15 to
30 centimeters from each other. The seedlings will come
forth in 10 to 20 days, and it will proceed to bring forth
greens during summer.