Tetragonia tetragonioides – New Zealand Spinach

Scientific Name

Tetragonia tetragonioides (Pall.) Kuntze

Common Names

New Zealand Spinach, Botany Bay Spinach, Cook’s Cabbage, Sea Spinach, Tetragon, Warrigal Greens, Warrigal Cabbage

Demidovia tetragonoides (basionym), Tetragonia borealis, Tetragonia expansa

Scientific Classification

Family: Aizoaceae
Genus: Tetragonia

Tetragonia tetragonioides is a leafy, succulent groundcover up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall. It has a trailing habit, and will form a thick carpet on the ground or climb through other vegetation and hang downwards. The leaves are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long, triangular in shape, and bright green. They are thick, and covered with tiny papillae that look like waterdrops on the top and bottom of the leaves. The flowers of the plant are yellow, and the fruit is a small, hard capsule covered with small horns.

USDA hardiness zone 8a to 11b: from 10 °F (−12.2 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

It is grown for the edible leaves, and can be used as food or an ornamental plant for ground cover. As some of its names signify, it has similar flavour and texture properties to spinach, and is cooked like spinach. Like spinach, it contains oxalates. Its medium to low levels of oxalates need to be removed by blanching the leaves in hot water for one minute, then rinsing in cold water before cooking. It can be found as an invasive plant in North and South America, and has been cultivated along the East Asian rim. It thrives in hot weather, and is considered an heirloom vegetable. Few insects consume it, and even slugs and snails do not seem to feed on it.
The thick, irregularly-shaped seeds should be planted just after the last spring frost. Before planting, the seeds should be soaked for 12 hours in cold water, or 3 hours in warm water. Seeds should be planted 0.2 to 0.4 inches (5 to 10 mm) deep, and spaced 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) apart. The seedlings will emerge in 10 to 20 days, and it will continue to produce greens through the summer.