Backyard bounty

Would you like some nutritious greens with your morning poached egg? Some pesto to put on pasta? To make delicious, savoury, filo pastry-encased spanakopita? Look no further than your feet.

The Australian coastline has an abundant supply of Warrigal greens – Tetragonia tetragonioides – otherwise known as Botany Bay greens and New Zealand spinach. According to Southern Cross University’s Professor Bronwyn Barkla, writing in The Conversation in 2019, while Warrigal greens are found throughout the Pacific they are thought to be native to Australia and New Zealand.

“The plant has an interesting history, having been collected in Australia and New Zealand by British botanist Joseph Banks and taken back to England in the late 1700s,” Professor Barkla writes. “There is some suggestion that it was eaten on the Endeavour on their homeward bound voyage to ward off scurvy.

“Its seeds were then distributed throughout Europe and there are reports it became a popular summer vegetable in Victorian England and France.”

Warrigal greens may be used in any situation that calls for similar leafy greens – spinach, chard, bok choy, kale, silverbeet and the like – and they are said to be a great source of antioxidents. Larger leaves should be blanched or steamed; smaller ones can be eaten after washing. Gourmet Traveller magazine reports the greens have “a fresh, grassy flavour with a slightly bitter finish”.

Warrigal greens for breakfast. Photo by Monique Stidwill

Professor Barkla also highlights another potential use for Warrigal greens: “The leaves of Tetragonia have also been used in herbal medicine remedies to treat gastrointestinal diseases, as an anti-inflammatory, and more recently, it was shown to have an anti-obesity effect when fed to mice on a high fat diet.”

And there’s more. Professor Barkla concludes: “Growing this native species as a food crop could provide more options for landowners in places where the salt levels are already moderate to high, allowing for better use of agricultural land. It thrives in hot weather, few insects consume it, and even slugs and snails do not seem to feed on it due to the salt content.”

Bounty in our backyard indeed.

Feature Image: Warrigal greens in Lovett Bay. Photo by Sara Nimmo

Story By Deborah Jones

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