Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
Shirley Flinn and Jan Sked
Several years ago a plant turned up in my garden which I didn't know. It grew prolifically, in fact I decided it was a weed and pulled it out in handfuls. Nevertheless it managed to seed and so next season there it was again covering a wide area. Again I attacked it, again it survived to grow anew.
Now, after reading Keith and Irene Smith's book "Grow Your Own Bush Tucker", I realise my "weed" is Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides - also known as New Zealand Spinach and is a popular vegetable in restaurants whose chefs serve 'bush tucker'. Must say I haven't tried eating it yet but am plucking up my courage to try!
I shouldn't worry too much as Warrigal Greens or New Zealand Spinach were eaten by Captain Cook and ship's company and has been part of Australian cuisine for a long time. In 1769 this plant was discovered growing at Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand by members of HMS Endeavour and seeds were taken home by Joseph Banks to Kew Gardens in 1722. It is also found along the coast of Australia and helped supplement the meagre rations of the early settlers at Sydney Cove and later at the new settlement at King George's Sound, Albany, Western Australia.
Today Warrigal Greens are grown in home gardens and commercially to supply restaurants and bush tucker outlets here in Australia. Also grown as a summer spinach in Britain and USA and in France where it's called Tetragon.
Tetragonia tetragonioides is a low-growing, soft-leaved herb of coastal sand dunes and tidal areas. It has a distinctive appearance, with the stems and triangular leaves covered with liquid-filled small pustules. Leaves must be blanched before eating to remove soluble oxalates and salt. They are best boiled like spinach. Choose only the light green leaves for eating.
Warrigal Greens can be grown in the garden or in a container and will spread rapidly, but should be replanted every couple of years, as it is not long-lived. It can be propagated from seed or cuttings.
Lightly blanched leaves can be used in salads and sandwiches and boiled or steamed leaves make an excellent vegetable.
I find it excellent as a substitute for spinach when making vegetable dishes.
From the newsletter of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland), March 2006.
Australian Plants online - 2007
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants