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Diamond-shaped leaves of warrigal greens
Warrigal greens is a traditional bush tucker plant that is now widely used in high-end restaurants and home cooking. Its fresh, grassy flavour with a mildly bitter aftertaste makes it a popular spinach alternative and it can be used in any recipe that calls for spinach or leafy greens. Once established, it spreads easily and is tolerant of neglect.

 

What you need to know about warrigal greens

Name: warrigal greens, native spinach, Botany Bay greens, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides).

Height: 20cm.

Plant type: perennial herb (annual in cold climates).

Climate: cool and warm temperate, sub-tropical, tropical.

Soil: moist and well-drained, enriched with organic matter.

Position: full sun to part shade.

Foliage: fleshy, oval to diamond-shaped.

Flowering and fruiting: small green-yellow flowers appear at the base of the leaves in spring and summer, followed by hard seed capsules.

Feeding: feed occasionally with a complete organic fertiliser.

Watering: water regularly until established.

Appearance and characteristics of warrigal greens

Warrigal greens forms a prostrate sprawling shrub with soft stems and foliage that reaches a diminutive height of 20cm but can spread up to 2m. Its leaves are fleshy and covered with tiny hairs that give it an iridescent glow, especially in sunlight. Small green-yellow flowers appear at the base of the leaves in spring and summer, but can spring up sporadically throughout the year. Once the blooms fade, they are replaced by hard, triangularly-horned seed capsules.

Warrigal greens tolerates saline soils and salt-laden winds, so is often found growing in coastal areas. Once established, it doesn’t mind neglect and will grow with little care. While it is a perennial, it can be short-lived, particularly in cold climates where it dies back in winter. However, it readily self-seeds and grows well from cuttings.

The leaves are edible and are often used as a substitute for spinach or similar leafy greens. They have a fresh, grassy flavour with a mildly bitter aftertaste. The leaves contain a high level of oxalates, which can be detrimental if eaten in large amounts. However, blanching will easily remove the oxalates and make them perfectly suitable for consumption.

Close-up of Warrigal greens

How to use warrigal greens

Plant warrigal greens in the vegie patch where it can be easily harvested, but avoid planting it next to any small herbs or vegies as it will take over. It’s also great in pots or hanging baskets. Use it as a substitute for silverbeet or spinach, or in any recipe that calls for leafy greens. 

How to grow warrigal greens

Choose a spot in full sun or part shade with well-drained soil. Improve the soil with organic matter such as compost and fork in well. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, loosen the soil around the root ball and position in the centre of the planting hole. Backfill, firm the soil and water in well. 

Caring for warrigal greens

Warrigal greens is hardy once established. It is tolerant of neglect, but will grow better with an occasional watering and feeding. In cold climates or frost-prone areas, the plant will die back in winter, so take cuttings or sow seeds to replant in spring. However, warrigal greens readily self-seeds, so you may end up with a patch regrowing once the weather warms.

How often should you water and feed warrigal greens?

Water regularly when first planted. Once established, it is drought-hardy and can withstand long periods of dry conditions. The warrigal green leaves may turn red and/or yellow but will recover when given a deep watering. To keep the plant looking healthy, water occasionally throughout summer.

Feeding isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea to apply an organic fertiliser during the warmer months to encourage growth and keep plants healthy. The organic matter will nourish the soil while gently feeding the plants.

How and when to harvest warrigal greens

Leaves will be ready to harvest in 8–10 weeks. Snip leaves for cooking as required.

Diseases and pests that affect warrigal greens

The plant is fairly pest and disease free but may occasionally be attacked by snails and slugs. These can be easily controlled with traps or baits.

How to propagate warrigal greens

Warrigal greens grows well from seeds and cuttings. Plant seeds in spring or summer, sowing direct in the ground or in a punnet filled with seed-raising mix. Encourage germination by pre-soaking the seeds for a couple of hours prior to planting. Once seedlings are ready, plant them out in the garden or in a medium or large pot filled with a premium quality potting mix.

Take cuttings 10–15cm long, remove the lower leaves and dip the ends in rooting hormone. Insert the cuttings into a tray filled with propagating mix, firm around the bases and water gently. Position in a warm spot and mist or water regularly to keep the soil moist.

Safety tip

After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

If you like this then try

Ruby saltbush: a low-growing native shrub with edible salty-sweet berries.

Chamelaucium ‘Jambinu Zest’: a Geraldton wax with lemony flavoured leaves and flowers.

Sea purslane: a sprawling native ground cover with fleshy and highly salty leaves. 

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

Photo credit: tuckerbush.com.au

 

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