Like Steve Irwin and Pemulwuy, Tetragonia tetragonioides (named for its four-angled flowers) is a true Aussie hero. It’s been one of our most valued edible exports ever since the time that savvy British bloke rocked up on a boat and started exporting stuff. Also known as New Zealand Spinach or Botany Bay Greens, this native champion can be found growing wild in coastal areas of eastern Australia and various other great southern lands. You can look for it at the beach this summer and if you’re lucky, take some home to be cultivated as an edible ground cover. With a whole host of bodacious benefits, warrigal greens are basically an all-round legend in the garden, and here’s why.
Being halophytic, this is a species with an evolved tolerance to salinity. It can be found growing naturally in the transitional zone between coastal soil and sand, where it’s high biomass provides better conditions for vegetation on the inland boundary. While care is due for its ecological importance, a discretionary amount may be transplanted from the wild by pulling it up from the roots and replanting it at home for horticultural purposes. Once you have it, chuck it in a pot or straight in to the ground, water it in and away she goes. As it grows it will reduce the salinity of your soil, benefiting other less salt-tolerant plants. It’s sprawling quality provides a stabilizing network of roots that will help to curb any heart-aching erosion issues. As if that wasn’t enough, it is also naturally pest resistant, requires very little fertilization, and you can plant it right now to harvest in time for your summer barbecues. Here’s a little inspiration.
If you are indeed a hungry little vegemite, picking and eating the leaves often will encourage the green’s growth, as well as the growth of your appetite. Just make sure to reduce the oxalic acid content by blanching the leaves and young stems in the billy for a couple of minutes prior to eating, and then serve them up any which way you like as an alternative to spinach. Packing protein and a choice selection of vitamins and minerals, these greens are a ready addition to your garden and your gullet. If you’d like to see a bit of the sea-side life right there in your backyard, pick up some seeds from here and you could be living the Australian dream in no time. Also, if you’d like to find out more about marine conservation in Australia, check out Surfrider Foundation Australia, where you can get involved on the front line of preserving the splendour of this country’s fragile coastal ecosystems.