James Cook’s crew dined on it to ward off scurvy.
Now top chefs are going wild for this antioxidant-rich native spinach that grows like a weed.
Warrigal greens. Antioxidant-rich native spinach that grows like a weed
Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides, also known as Botany Bay greens, native spinach or New Zealand spinach, is one of the better known native edibles. Food foragers have long appreciated its weed-like ability to thrive on neglect and now gardeners and chefs are catching on. Seeds can be sown anytime. Soak in water overnight to increase viability. Seedlings will sprout in 10-20 days. They are not fussy when it comes to position, rambling up a wire trellis or sprawling under other plants. Grow them fast for best flavour, using Harvest, Powerfeed or your own composted seaweed mix made by soaking seaweed and cow manure in water, then pouring off and diluting the concentrate. This regime will deliver a harvest just six weeks after sowing. Warrigal greens thrive in hot weather and are not bothered by insects, snails or slugs. In fact this is fast-becoming our favourite edible groundcover and weed suppressant. It self-seeds: pull out unwanted seedlings and throw them in a sizzling pan.
According to the diaries of Joseph Banks the officers of the Endeavour dined on skate and warrigal greens as the ship left Botany Bay. Banks took seeds to Kew Gardens in 1771, making warrigal greens the first Australian food plant cultivated abroad. The fleshy, arrow-shaped leaves of this sprawling groundcover are delicious, but contain oxalates that can be damaging if eaten in high quantities. For this reason the leaves are always blanched in boiling water for 10-15 seconds before being sautéed, sauced, or simply eaten. They have a fresh grassy taste with a bitter finish. We love them in Asian stir-fries as the leaf handles the heat better than spinach. As well as sautéing or stir-frying, try warrigal greens with feta in a pie or quiche, or blanch then use as you would regular spinach for an antioxidant-packed green smoothie. Or maybe cook up a version of the Endeavour crew's final Australian meal, substituting skate (which is at risk of being overfished) with a nice bit of trevally.