Warrigal Greens are an Australian native bush food that is low maintenance in the garden and can be grown in the warmer months as a substitute for spinach.
Warrigal Greens, (Tetragonia tetragonoides) also known as Warrigal Spinach, New Zealand Spinach or Botany Bay greens is a perennial (Sydney climate) bush tucker vegetable native to Australia and New Zealand. The edible succulent with fleshy green leaves is is often grown and used as an alternative to spinach.
The plant is native to coastal areas of Southern Australia and parts of New Zealand. It’s heat tolerant and disease resistant which makes it suitable to grow during summer.
In my first year of gardening, I planted seeds in spring and due to a number of environmental factors and mainly rookie errors, the plant didn’t grow very much and the leaves remained around 4-5mm in size. At the end of summer, I tried a little experiment and transplanted two plants into small pots to keep them during winter. While they didn’t grow, they didn’t die either and they started to form seeds which I duly harvested. I kept the plant over winter with an occasional watering and the following spring, I transplanted them into a large raised container after prepping the soil with compost, blood and bone and they grew at a very fast rate.
How to Grow Warrigal Greens
Warrigal Greens like full sun and can be grown from seed in spring and summer. They favour moist, well drained soil and can be sown direct or raised as seedlings. Soak the seeds overnight in warm water before sowing them 10mm deep and 50cm apart. Germination takes place anywhere from one to three weeks provided the temperature is above 25oC. It takes around 50 days to harvest.
The plants like to sprawl and spread out so do give them ample space. They grow to a height of 20cm and can spread to 50-60cm across which makes them suitable as ground cover.
Warrigal Greens Plant Care
Keep the plants moist but don’t over water and mulch well to preserve moisture. You can feed it with a liquid fertiliser but I find if I have prepared the soil well before planting, it’s not necessary to liquid feed them at the start of the growing season.
This edible succulent is relatively pest and disease free. Pick the leaves frequently to encourage more growth and if the lower leaves turn yellow, simply remove them.
Harvesting & Seed Saving
The leaves can be harvested 50 days from sowing seeds. It’s recommended to pick them regular to encourage growth and keep the plant bushy.
At the end of summer, seeds start to form which can be left to dry on the plant then harvested and stored in a cool, dry place. The seeds are ten-sided and turn woody when dry. One source states that warrigal greens get their names from their seeds which resemble puppies’ heads and warrigal is the Wiradjuri word for dog.
The plant is known to die back in winter and is not very frost tolerant. However, I have successfully overwintered it as the climate in my part of Sydney isn’t prone to frost.
Tips for Growing Warrigal Greens
- Choose a sunny position with well prepared soil before planting.
- Pick young leaves regularly at the tips to encourage more growth and prune to maintain a bushy plant.
Culinary Uses of Warrigal Greens
The most common culinary use of Warrigal Greens is a substitute for spinach, particularly that it can be grown during the warmer months. The leaves have a fresh, grassy taste, slightly salty with a succulent texture.
Care must be taken as the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid which is toxic and harmful if consumed in large quantities. To remove it, blanch the leaves in hot water for 3 minutes then rinse them in an ice bath before use. Discard the water and don’t use it again. After blanching, use them in salads, frittata, omelette, stir fries, quiche, pies, soup, and as a substitute for spinach.
Warrigal greens can also be frozen and used later. Simply harvest the leaves fresh and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Once you’re ready to use them, remove from the freezer and blanch them before using them in your favourite recipes.
Recipe idea: Warrigal Greens Dip/Pesto Recipe
Warrigal Greens in Drinks
If you’re considering using Warrigal Greens in smoothies or syrups, make sure the leaves are blanched first as they contain high levels of oxalic acid which is toxic.
WARRIGAL GREENS GROWING GUIDE AT A GLANCE
For temperate climate (Sydney, Australia)
- Sowing Season: spring, summer
- Sowing Method: sow direct or raise seedling
- Position: full sun
- Seed Preparation: soaking overnight in warm water
- Soil Type / pH / Temperature: moist and free draining
- Sowing Depth: 10mm
- Plant Spacing: 50cm
- Row Spacing: n/a
- Plant Height: 20cm
- Germination: 7-21 days
- Time to Maturity/Harvest: 50 days
- Water Requirements: keep moist
- Fertiliser Requirements: occasional liquid fertiliser during growing season
- Companion Planting: n/a
- Avoid: n/a
- Succession Planting: n/a