Over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment we have an Australian Native Garden where – you’ve got it – we plant trees, shrubs and ground cover that is native to Australia.
In this garden we use Warrigal Greens as a ground-cover plant. Warrigal greens are also known as New Zealand spinach and Botany Bay Greens.
It was one of the first native Australian vegetables to become popular with European settlers. Captain Cook was known to encourage his men to eat them to prevent scurvy.
WARNING: Caution should be taken with Warrigal Greens as the leaves contain toxic oxalates which can be harmful consumed in large quantities. It’s important to blanch the leaves for 3 minutes and discard this water. Then rinse the leaves in cold water before using them in salads or for cooking.
I have been reading up about Warrigal Greens and their importance to the early British settlers as a source of nourishment and if you have a few minutes to spare – it’s a long post – check out this link to The Forager’s Year blog. Fascinating stuff.
I love this line from The Forager’s Year “Overall, eating tetragonia may be beneficial if you are a scurvy struck convict.”
So, in conclusion, why would you bother eating it? Because it’s our native spinach, it’s available all year round - and nutritionally it reduces the risk of scurvy! Just make sure you blanch it first and don’t pig out on it.
And why would you bother growing it? It has no known diseases and snails and slugs will NOT eat this (if that doesn’t send out alarm bells I don’t know what will!). And it’s great ground cover.
I know I have posted this photograph before but it cheers me every time I look at it. So here it is again. On the edge of the Australian Native Garden is this Bottle Brush tree and the birds love it.