New Zealand Spinach - Forgotten, Rare, and Less-Known Vegetables - A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes - Wolf D. Storl

A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes - Wolf D. Storl (2016)

Forgotten, Rare, and Less-Known Vegetables

New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides, T. expansa)

Family: Aizoaceae: ice plant family or fig-marigold family

Other Names: Botany Bay spinach, Cook’s cabbage, sea spinach, tetragon, warrigal greens

Healing Properties: JUICE reduces inflammation (anti-inflammatory); heals general ailments and wounds

Planetary Affiliation: Mercury, Saturn

New Zealand spinach belongs to the ice plant family (Aizoaceae). These plants, most of which are found in South Africa, are usually succulent. The most well known of this family are lithops, or “living stones.” If they are not in blossom and are seen in dried-out streams, they can hardly be distinguished from rounded stones. Herbal astrology puts these plants under the rule of Mercury due to their succulence and their hardy, concentrated life energy; because of their connection to rocky, dry biotopes, they also come under the rule of Saturn.

For a long time New Zealand spinach served as a wild edible plant for the aboriginals in Australia and Tasmania, as well as for the Maori of New Zealand. The latter use the plant as an antiscorbutic, that is, to prevent scurvy, and the red berries as ink or dye. But it was officially “discovered” to the rest of the world in 1770 by Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who was with Captain James Cook in the Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand. They brought the plant to England, where it was planted as an exotic vegetable in Kew Gardens. (Incidentally, these gardens were established to showcase all the plants found in the empire “on which the sun never sets.”)

This very nutritious vegetable tastes like spinach, but has none of the oxalic acid found in spinach. Very little is known about the healing properties of the plant. One may assume that, like most ice plant family members, the juice is antiseptic. The Zulus in southeast Africa certainly use the juice of these succulents for skin infections and burns, and also as a gargle for tonsillitis.

The New Zealand spinach produces abundantly and likes warmth and good humus. As an ice plant it is specialized to take dry weather, but it grows joyously only when it gets plenty of water. It takes the seeds six weeks to germinate. It is best to sow them in February inside or in a hot bed. Only two to three plants are enough for the needs of one family. They can be planted out after all danger of frost is past (in northern Europe that would be mid-May, the time of the “Frost Saints”). They need plenty of room. Though slow to start, they will grow new shoots continuously until October.


New Zealand Spinach Patties with Savory Butter ✵ 2 TO 4 SERVINGS

BUTTER: ½ cup (115 grams) butter, soft ✵ 2 tablespoons herb such as parsley, thyme, or marjoram, finely chopped ✵ PATTIES: 1 cup (225 grams) chickpeas, soaked and sprouted for two days ✵ ½ cup (115 grams) New Zealand Spinach leaves ✵ 2 ounces (60 grams) oat flakes ✵ 1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped ✵ 4 tablespoons olive oil ✵ herbal salt ✵ pepper ✵ 2 pinches ground coriander seeds

BUTTER: In a small bowl, stir butter until soft. Add hedge garlic or other savory; season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator. PATTIES: In a medium bowl mix the chickpeas, spinach, and oat flakes. In a medium pan, sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until golden brown. Stir into the chickpea mixture until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Form the chickpea mixture into patties about ½-inch thick. Fry in the olive oil until brown and crispy, about 15 minutes. Add a dab of hedge garlic butter to each patty and serve hot.