NZ Beach Spinach
NZ Beach Spinach
During a beachwalk last week my daughter spotted this Beach Spinach covered in flowers. “Look Mum at all the flowers on the Beach Spinach – aren’t they cute”. They sure are, so teeny tiny, and such a joy on a cold winters day! The flowers, fruits & leaves & stems are all edible.
Wild NZ Beach Spinach grows in abundance along our NZ coastlines. Whilst it usually flowers & fruits during warmer months, I find it abundantly luscious during the wet, cool season months. Wild Beach Spinach comes from the Tetragonia plant family, with a variety of species found in NZ, Australia and South Africa.
The bright green color, lovely crunchiness combined with the slightly salty taste from the seaspray makes this a lovely alternative to common garden spinach, although it's a bit tougher. It’s best to use just the leaves (not the stalks) and use it like you would kale, that’s to say, cook it a bit longer than usual. I love to toss the leaves into soups & stews, or sautee first with garlic and then combine with eggs.
There are 2 types of wild spinach commonly found in New Zealand. They are both often confused but can be used interchangably. Often known as NZ Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) & Beach Spinach (Tetragonia trigyna & tetragonia Implexicoma). The Maori name is kōkihi. One has rounder shaped leaves, the other is much pointier and triangle shaped. Both grow in a spreading mass close to the ground (not upright & erect like garden spinach). It has spreading stalks with small leaves that scramble over the ground. Pick off the tender young tips (which are softest but also encourages new growth). The dark pinky red fruits can also be eaten when ripe, but be careful as they have large seeds you’ll want to spit out.
Beach Spinach does contain oxalates (just like spinach, kale, broccoli etc), so remember not to eat too much and it's better for your body to consume it cooked than raw. Look up oxalates if you’re concerned about this.
As with ALL foraging, please be mindful of the environment where you are gathering. Many coastlines & dunes are suffering from erosion so it’s important to ensure that your not trampling in an erosion zone. We need our native coastal plants to flourish & thrive to protect our dunes.