Tetragonia tetragonioides, is native to New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Although compared to spinach, it differs in some significant ways. It likes full sun and will grow throughout the summer if given some light shade. Not prone to bolting, it will tolerate dry conditions (although it prefers consistent moisture) and likes a pretty neutral pH soil. It is pretty pest resistant, although I think that is because it is not a native plant to the United States! New Zealand Spinach is an annual but likes to spread so I imagine it will need some management. You can see why I thought it could be a good spinach alternative!
Young tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads, although it contains oxalates, which some people are sensitive to. Larger leaves need to be cooked which removes the substance. New Zealand Spinach is nutritious, being high in Vitamin A and C.
This spring I planted NZ Spinach in my new edible garden. I had spotty germination which is common with New Zealand Spinach, but I had planted enough seeds to still get a good crop. I think it is an attractive plant, looking nothing like spinach, with small triangular shaped leaves which grow up a thick stem.
I've been watching it grow, as you do, then when I got back from my trip I realized I better do something with it before it flowers! Most of the recipes I found for the plant say to treat New Zealand Spinach as if it is regular spinach, so I decided to make a simple pasta dish with the first Roma tomatoes from the garden, mushrooms, onion and garlic.
Linguine with New Zealand Spinach
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
10oz fresh NZ Spinach leaves, roughly chopped
8oz Roma tomatoes, chopped
6oz mushrooms, sliced
Small red onion , finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta and drain.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the butter and the mushrooms, spreading the mushrooms so all are touching the pan. Leave for a minute until the mushrooms are brown. Turn the mushrooms over and repeat. Add the tomatoes and the seasoning. Cook for a minute. Add the NZ Spinach and turn the ingredients until the spinach has wilted. Taste for seasoning. Add the pasta to the pan and combine all the ingredients.
Place cheese on the table for sprinkling.
The verdict? It was good (I wouldn't have posted the recipe if it wasn't!), but I was surprised by how little taste the NZ Spinach has, which is why people who don't like spinach like NZ Spinach! I need to try cooking it in different ways to find the right method to make this plant shine in it's own right!
Do you like NZ Spinach? How have you prepared and eaten it?
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