As it turns out, the Tasmanian pepperberry isn’t the only native plant that packs a serious nutritional punch. Warrigal Greens are Australia’s very own native spinach, and the hospo scene is starting to catch on – well-known chefs like Jock Zonfrillo and Kylie Kwong are huge fans and you’ll often see the green grace their menus. The great news is, Warrigal Greens are an easy-grow variety for your backyard or balcony. Even better? for warmer climate folk, you can expect to see a year-round harvest.
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This is called New Zealand Spinach, also known as Warrigal Greens. It is a perennial spinach native to Australia and New Zealand. You can often find it growing along the coast. Warrigal Greens are easy to grow, especially good in the warmer months when other spinach may struggle. I also use it as a ground cover to help suppress weeds. The green leaves are very fleshy. It might not look like spinach but it definitely tastes like it. Pick the stem tips and leaves for cooking. It does contains oxalates which you don’t want to consume in high quantities but this can be easily resolved by blanching before eating. Warrigal Greens are high in antioxidants and high in fibre. You won’t find this one in the supermarket.
Truth be told, you’ve probably walked past a patch of Warrigal Greens at the beach. It thrives in sandy salty soil, and is found growing along the Australian coastline and in estuaries (think sand meets soil – beaches, rivers, creeks). Although thought to be native to New Zealand and Australia, Warrigal Greens are also found throughout the Pacific region from Argentina to Japan.
Warrigal Greens are pretty much a set-and-forget plant variety – once it gets going, it will thrive on neglect and is pretty resistant to pests and diseases, so is perfect for the low-maintenance lovers out there. They’re a ground trailing plant, meaning they won’t grow very high (between 20-50cm) but will spread out along the ground if space allows. You can grow Warrigal Greens in medium-to-large pots, but for it to really thrive – give it room to grow and spread.
Plant in a full to partial sun position, and like most other veggies, water regularly.
Pick the leaves regularly to encourage new growth.
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The Warrigal Greens Stack! (image 1) Super fresh harvest, straight into soba, bone broth, vege, and tofu soup whipped up by @ella.rose.colley (image 2). Warrigal Greens looking strong (image 3). Originally transplanted from @terrewahfarm. #nativefoodfuture #foodways #nativefoods #nativeplants #warrigalgreens #sustainable #organic #harvest
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Full of antioxidants, and high in fibre and vitamin C, Australia’s native spinach makes for a fab substitute for spinach, silverbeet or Asian greens.
Just be mindful, however, to always blanch before eating, as the leaves contain oxalates (like regular spinach). This is an easy fix, though – simply cook in boiling water for around a minute, remove and rinse under cold water.
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Also called New Zealand Spinach or Botany Bay spinach, warrigal greens are native to Australia and New Zealand. They are a sprawling plant around 50cm high, and trailing around 1-2 metres long. . Warrigal greens contain high levels of vitamin C and were used by early colonisers with scurvy. The extent to which First Nation Australians may have consumed this food seems however largely lost and unknown. Warrigal is the Eora Aboriginal name for the native dog or dingo. . It is low in calories, high in fiber, and has zero fat. One hundred grams of Warrigal greens contains 278% vitamin K which improves calcium absorption, reduces urinary excretion of calcium, and acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins. 100grams contains 3% of your calcium needs. New Zealand Spinach is a rich source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A. Botany Bay spinach also has a high content of magnesium, which is a mineral that is directly linked to improving the quality, duration, and tranquility of sleep. . Lightly blanch warrigal leaves to remove mildly toxic oxalates. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for about one minute, then plunge them into cold water diluted with colloidal silver immediately. This will keep their green colour and remove toxins. Drain and discard water. I foraged some native saltbush, harvested some basil from my herbs out the back, and used some local garlic, cashews and nutritional yeast flakes to make up a delicious fresh VEGAN pesto! . Traditionally, some Indigenous groups used the saltbush (“Purngep” or “Binga”) seeds in baking, where they were ground and added to dampers. It’s documented that the leaves were more medicinal, and often added to water as skin cleansers for sores, burns and wounds. Today, however, saltbush is still incorporated in baked goods, but its leaves are the most desired part. Saltbush is an excellent source of protein and contains beneficial calcium and trace minerals. It also contains 20% less sodium than table salt and is a rich source of antioxidants. . Recipe in comments ?
Ready to try Warrigal Greens in your next dinner? Give this brilliantly simple recipe a go, from the amazing Narrelle Happ – horticulturist, permaculture designer and co-creator of the Plant Life Balance Native Edibles look.
Warrigal Greens pesto
50g macadamia nuts, roasted
1-2 cloves garlic
250g Warrigal Greens
125ml olive oil
100g grated parmesan cheese (or vegan alternative)
Salt and pepper to taste
LET’S GET COOKING
- Wash and then blanch Warrigal Green leaves in boiling water with a tablespoon of olive oil for 60 seconds.
- Drain and cool in a bath of iced water to preserve the bright green colour. Squeeze the excess water out of the leaves. Discard water in your garden once cooled.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the Warrigal Greens with the nuts and garlic.
- Slowly add the oil, then the cheese. Season to taste.
- Serve cold as a dip with carrot and celery sticks or rice crackers or hot on pasta.
Tip: Garnish with flowering wattle for a burst of colour.
ALSO KNOWN AS
New Zealand spinach, Botany Bay greens, native spinach, Tetragonia tetragonoides
Ready to grow Warrigal Greens in your own garden? Give your local Plant Life Balance accredited nursery a call and have a chat with the experts.
Looking for more easy-grow native edible varieties? Check out our favourites here.
After more recipe ideas? We chatted with Australia’s top chefs to see how they cook with native edibles here.