New Zealand spinach: A lesson in how to get the most out of your summer garden
New Zealand spinach. Botany Bay spinach. Sea spinach. Cook's cabbage. Tetragon.
With enough nicknames to be a Marvel supervillain, one of my favorite summer veggies has a penchant for hot weather and a bad reputation. Alright, well maybe not the bad reputation, but it is avoided by nearly all insects and even slugs and snails proceed with caution.
Pictured above, NZ spinach. Pictured below, Popeye's favorite snack.
Discovered by Captain Cook in New Zealand and used to help prevent his crew from getting scurvy. NZ spinach is packed with powerful nutrients and is a great source of folate (reduces inflammation that harms brain function), L-tyrosine (improves mental focus), vitamin A, iron, and vitamin K. It also provides high levels of fiber, magnesium, and calcium to boot. It helps alkalize the body, lowering blood pressure, fighting acne and wrinkles, fighting stroke, and aiding in digestion.
Pictured above, NZ spinach doing its thing in a large plastic pot.
Planting and care
Each year we start off by soaking seeds for 24 hours before planting in small soil blocks in our small greenhouse. Once a few inches high, we then move to soil, and as you can see above and below, it does well both potted and directly in the earth. It thrives on lots of sunlight, heat, and lots of water. It's truly an easy plant to maintain and manage, and will yield a remarkable amount of "spinach" for you and yours.
They reach full maturation in 60 days and once established, they will sprawl out densely over any area they can move over.
Pictured above, NZ spinach showcasing its expansive nature.
Harvesting and cooking tips
I generally wait until the leaves are roughly 3-4 inches in size and then use a small knife or the end of my thumb to pluck them from the vine. While not true spinach, they are extremely close in taste and nutrients, and do best with a similar approach in cooking. I generally prefer to blanch them and then incorporate into pasta with cherry tomatoes, or throw some leaves into a smoothie for an added natural multivitamin.
So despite its harsh relationships with slugs, snails, and insects (or perhaps because of it) I suggest giving it a try next season.