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New Zealand spinach, grow Tetragonia in your garden

New Zealand spinach

New Zealand spinach is a vegetable that loves full sun.

Key Tetragonia facts:

Latin Names: Tetragonia expansa, Tetragonia tetragonoïdes
Common: tetragonia, New Zealand Spinach
Family: Aizoaceae

Type: Leafy vegetable
Height: about 3.3 feet (environ 1 m)
Planting Distance: 32 inches (80 cm)

Exposure: Sunny
Soil: limestone to neutral, light, rich in humus

Planting: April-May – Harvest: July to October

Spin your garden game up with Tetragonia, a brilliant annual plant. It’s easy to grow, doesn’t care for drought, and is more productive than traditional spinach.

Its taste is nearly identical, and since it comes from New Zealand it’s also dubbed “New Zealand spinach.”

Planting Tetragonia

Tetragonia doesn’t ask for much, but it loves well-worked soil. So, during the fall before planting, take time to amend and till the soil. You’ll be happy to know it’s a vegetable that loves growing in full sun, in a warm spot.

Key soil preparation steps:

How to plant New Zealand spinachHere’s how you ready your garden for New Zealand spinach:

  • Add humus, like compost or well-rotted manure.
  • Got clay-heavy soil? Mix in some sand. And over the winter, if you’ve got a fireplace, sprinkle some of your wood ashes.
  • Loosen the soil with a spading fork. If you’re afraid of back problems, go for a broadfork which has better ergonomics.

Seed sowing and planting:

For planting New Zealand spinach, you’ve got two options:

Directly in the ground

Around mid-spring, April-May, soak seeds for 24 hours. Next day, line them up in a row or seed holes. They need their space — plant them apart by at least 32 inches (80 cm).

Start indoors and transplant

Another option is to kick things off early spring, in March. After a 24-hour seed soak, sow them into pots or trays. Use a mix of potting soil and sand. Once they show 2 or 3 leaves, select the more vigorous ones transfer them to the growing bed. Tip: wait for any frosts to end first.

Caring for and growing New Zealand Spinach

Caring for New Zealand spinachTetragonia thrives in heat and can stand up to dry spells, but it still requires water to truly flourish and reach maximum productivity.

So, keep an eye on watering, especially during long-lasting dry spells.

Pests and diseases:

Tetragonia shows great resilience to diseases. Beware of snails and slugs. They just can’t resist those tender young shoots. It’s like candy to them.

Harvesting and storing

Depending on when you sowed your seeds, harvest can start in July, and continue until frost starts nipping at the leaves (around October or November). After picking, these greens can keep in your fridge for a few days.

Cooking with New Zealand spinach

Cooking with New Zealand spinachWhether cooked or raw, these spinach-like leaves fit into a variety of tasty dishes:

  • Raw, they’re soft and tasty in salads;
  • Cooked, treat them just like you’d treat spinach.

Images: 123RF: David Jalda, vaivirga; adobestock: Tamara Kulikova

Written by Christophe Dutertre | With a formal degree in landscaping and an informal love of gardens, Christophe will introduce you to this passion we all share. Novelty, down-to-earth tips and environment-friendly techniques are marked on the map, so let's get going!
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