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Caucasian mountain spinach

 
pollinator
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Tristan Vitali wrote:

R Laurance wrote:We have a different zone numbering system so that doesn't translate as easily. However, Daron, I am a native Oregonian and know your climate well. It is close to the same here in this region, though some winters may be colder here dipping down to about 2°-3° F for a few days, but have only experienced that once in the 20 years I've been here.  



I actually started some this year from our local seed coop - they're claiming to be growing it down to a zone 3! Sounds like this plant has quite a range, which is always a good sign.



Just a quick update here in a zone 4b: it's still early but I have two plants up and running already in a raised bed in full sun that received little mulch for the winter. We had a low-snow winter here (normal snow depth gets to 4 or 5 feet, this year was 3 or less) but also a warmer winter (most years we dip to negative 20s fahrenheit a few nights, but this year barely into the negative teens). Still waiting a few more weeks to spot more of these in other areas I've planted them before I call them a loss - we're just now nearing our last frost date here.

 
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John Suavecito wrote:Careful about mixing sand with clay. That's how they make cobh benches-much like cement! I would much rather put gravel in my clay and add organic matter.
That lets the soil drain.  Very important.
John S
PDX OR



Surely the thing making sand and clay like cement in cob is lack of water. Clay by itself is fairly hard like cement when it is bone dry isn't it? I find sand is probably one of the better amendments for heavy clay soil and enables it to be worked well even in dry conditions..... if you are sceptical try it in a small area.
 
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I have Hablitzia from two different sources in the UK.  The first plant is in a rather exposed position and is surviving, but not exactly thriving.  The others I grew from seed a few years ago - got very good germination and rather more seedlings than I knew what to do with! I gave some away, planted some in my 'happy habby bed' (improved with compost and old lime mortar to try and rsise the pH of my acid soil), and tucked the rest in various places around the garden, so at least they stood a chance.  That was two years ago. The ones in the habby bed grew away nicely and flowered for the past two years.  They are growing away strongly this year too.  I was surprised however this spring to find several of the forgotten plants have also survived and are shooting up nicely.  These are in unimproved acidic silty loam, most of them planted under my willow 'fedge' which shelteres my fruit jungle.  Another is under a fuchsia bush in my main front garden.  Given how wet we are, I'm really pleased to see them still alive.  Note they didn't all survive by any means, but I wasn't really expecting any to thrive and have given them no protection from slugs or other care.

I tried the first sprouts cooked, but didn't really like them much - they have a stronger flavour than the later leaves. As the shoots elongate the tips are delicious just raw.  I think they taste of a less bitter lettuce. The side leaves can be stripped off and cooked like spinach or again eaten raw, still with a mild flavour through the season.
20210510_161710.jpg
caucasian spinach plant surviving neglect
Surprise Hablitzia growing under willow fedge
 
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Henry Jabel wrote:

John Suavecito wrote:Careful about mixing sand with clay. That's how they make cobh benches-much like cement! I would much rather put gravel in my clay and add organic matter.
That lets the soil drain.  Very important.
John S
PDX OR



Surely the thing making sand and clay like cement in cob is lack of water. Clay by itself is fairly hard like cement when it is bone dry isn't it? I find sand is probably one of the better amendments for heavy clay soil and enables it to be worked well even in dry conditions..... if you are sceptical try it in a small area.



I have tried it and many here have come to the same results.  I wonder if it has to do with acidic vs. alkaline soil? I won't do it again here.  I use gravel and organic material regularly here for it and it works really well.  It should work for this plant, which hates poor drainage as well.

John S
PDX OR
 
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Returning after a year since last posting to say that our caucasian spinach has grown like crazy this year! In fact I've been preaching to anyone who will listen about what a great example of a perennial plant it is. The season so far in the UK has been wet, cold, miserable and with far less sun than usual. As a result the annual spinach are the several cm of puny growth. The established caucasian spinach, only one year old, is undeterred and we are currently harvesting a bunch of leaves every day for salads.

After my initial doubts about this plant I now can't recommend it highly enough for my region!
 
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I'm in zone 9b, Santa Cruz, CA. We are 1 mile from the coast, so weather usually doesn't get too hot or too cold. I have very sandy soil. I started H. Tamniodes seeds from Fedco last March, after cold storage in fridge and freezer. I had very good germination rates, and many tiny seedlings, but lost many in moving to pots.  By winter, I had about six seedlings go dormant. In March 2021, I planted them out to two locations. One is almost full shade, the other gets morning sun, against a wall. The plant in the sun location is doing well and is now two feet and growing with lots of sprouts at the base. The plant in shade is still only 1inch. I don't see anyone in my zone reporting any success, so I'm adding my experiences with this plant.  I'm hoping I will be able to continue growing it here!
 
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Oooh! I want to grow it! Any idea where I can get seed? None of my regular seed websites list it, except Fedco, which is out of stock.
Oops, went back and read the whole thread again, and found it here for the US:
https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/products/caucasian-mountain-spinach-breeding-mix
and here for the UK
https://www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk/hablitzia-tamnoides-how-to-grow/

I also noticed the discussion of New Zealand spinach upthread. I'm growing that, too, and it is perennial in my greenhouse, which goes below freezing every night for a month or two of winter; for reference,  arugula, lettuce, dill, and several others freeze but grow all winter. The New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia) turns yellow for the coldest part of winter but rebounds early in spring and puts on lots of luscious green growth. Pro: It doesn't get aphids like most other things in the greenhouse do. Con: If I cook it straight, I dislike some weird metallic flavor in it, which a few other people also taste, but most people don't. I've learned to boil it for 5-10 minutes first and discard the water, and then cook up, and then it's good. As mentioned above, the leaves are succulent and do not shrink a lot with cooking, so it's easy to collect, cook and serve a large amount. Although slow to germinate initially, it now self-seeds abundantly but the seedlings are large and visible and easy to pull.
 
John Suavecito
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I would try Quail seeds.

John S
PDX OR
 
Rebecca Norman
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John Suavecito wrote:I would try Quail seeds.


Nice website! It's currently sold out (as is Fedco) but I'll try back later.
https://www.quailseeds.com/store/p230/Hablitzia%2C_Caucasus_Spinach.html#/
(Search function on the website didn't find it as "hablitzia," "caucasian," and it wasn't on the greens or spinach pages, but was on the perennial vegetables page.)
 
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Thank you for the great info and pics! This helps a lot. I just received my Caucasian mountain spinach in the mainl. Happy growing!
 
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I found some on a friends table in a cup and growing roots.
 
John Suavecito
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Sebastian-
Is Abkhazia a great place for permaculture? It was noted in John Robbins' book "Healthy at 95" as one of the hot beds of longevity. He noticed that people were very healthy and happy there, with simple lives.    It seems like it would be a great location to grow food.  I'm sorry about the recent war.  I would think that Caucasian mountain spinach might be a native plant there.

John S
PDX OR
 
Sebastian Köln
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John, I would say so, yes.
And it needs people with that knowledge to make the transition back to a higher population density without destroying everything.
Many people here still live a simple life, but mostly due to lack of money, which is a bit of a double-edged sword here. It enables a lot, but that also includes a lot of bad things.
I have had no problem growing things, but rather keeping the plants in check...
 
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Sebastian Köln wrote:I found some on a friends table in a cup and growing roots.


Ops. False alarm, it is a Ipomoea. Dammit.
 
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I planted some seeds from EFN in the spring. I'd read that they need cold stratification, which I'd dropped the ball on doing, so I just sprinkled a few in a four inch pot to see if any would come up without it. Well, lots came up, so I don't know if the stratification is that important.

They stayed in the 4" pot all summer and were a little tortured. I realized I had a bunch of stuff in black pots all sitting in the sun for a few days while it was 44° out. The roots were probably cooking. The hablitzia seemed the least bothered out of everything.

I just transplanted them into the garden. They're only about 8cm tall, but they seem really sturdy. I divided the clump in the pot in half and put one half in a mostly ornamental garden under a birch tree, where it will be shaded when the sun is high. The other half got planted at the back of a herb garden where it can grow up a Saskatoon tree that never produces well. This one will be in full sun almost all day. The soil in both places is very silty, low organic material. I mixed in a bit of sand and rock dust. The garden under the birch tree can get pretty waterlogged in the spring, so we'll see how it goes. Since the hablitzia seeds seem to sprout so easily, I'm happy to take a chance with them.
 
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Hi Mino. I live close by you in Felton. I’m growing Hablitzia as well. What I’ve learned so far is that it seems to prefer partial shade on my property. Please let me know what else you observe. 😊
 
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Jan White wrote:I planted some seeds from EFN in the spring. I'd read that they need cold stratification, which I'd dropped the ball on doing, so I just sprinkled a few in a four inch pot to see if any would come up without it. Well, lots came up, so I don't know if the stratification is that important.

They stayed in the 4" pot all summer and were a little tortured. I realized I had a bunch of stuff in black pots all sitting in the sun for a few days while it was 44° out. The roots were probably cooking. The hablitzia seemed the least bothered out of everything.

I just transplanted them into the garden. They're only about 8cm tall, but they seem really sturdy. I divided the clump in the pot in half and put one half in a mostly ornamental garden under a birch tree, where it will be shaded when the sun is high. The other half got planted at the back of a herb garden where it can grow up a Saskatoon tree that never produces well. This one will be in full sun almost all day. The soil in both places is very silty, low organic material. I mixed in a bit of sand and rock dust. The garden under the birch tree can get pretty waterlogged in the spring, so we'll see how it goes. Since the hablitzia seeds seem to sprout so easily, I'm happy to take a chance with them.



Apologies for the thread necromancy, but could you update on this, or is too early to tell? We've just moved into a shadier garden with established trees. Would love to grow this plant again but got to find the right space for it.

Also, to share an experience with it - in its first year we had seedlings that we put in at the some time as our courgette (zucchini) plants. Of course the former spread all over the place, quite shading out the spinach. which, in turn, was undeterred and once we harvested the last fruits, pulled up the squash plants and the spinach still had time to shine.
 
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Hi Al, See my post above. My 'happy habby bed' is in almost full shade (on a north facing wall) on Skye, and we're certainly not dry here! They're not as lush as some pictures I've seen online, but perfectly happy plants still. I'm pretty sure I've read they prefer an alkaline soil, and they don't like much heat. Some people seem to struggle getting them established, but I had very good germination from seed, and good seedling survival.
I still have some seed if you'd like some? - see my post here for other seeds I've got.
 
Jan White
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Al William wrote:

Jan White wrote:



Apologies for the thread necromancy, but could you update on this, or is too early to tell?



Remind me again in four or five months when the snow is gone 🙂
 
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Should I cover the seed when planting?
 
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I'm trying to grow out some caucasian spinach seeds at the moment. So far it has not gone super well. I have now taken some of the seeds out of fridge stratification to sow in room temperature, and sown some in a container outdoors (temperature ranging between 10 and minus 2 C, at the moment). Also left some seeds in the fridge. We'll see how it goes. Last time I tried starting these, I forgot the stratification jar in the fridge for ten months, and when I found it and opened it, one had sprouted, and another one came along right after I moved them to room temperature. Then they immediately died...

As for covering or not covering the seeds, I have operated on the theory that since the seeds are tiny and there aren't really any mechanisms in nature that would bury them (they're not inside fruits to be eaten and then deposited in dung, or nuts to be stashed by amnesic rodents, etc) it's best to leave them on the soil surface or covered by a very thin layer of soil. Of course, as I mentioned I don't have the best track record when it comes to these, so the above might be completely wrong. Maybe they are supposed to be covered by autumn leaves or something?
 
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Catherine Brouwer wrote:Once germinated, I think, it may be best to keep plants not too warm and not too wet, as to make them grow slowly. Otherwise I do not know how to protect them from collapsing. I do hope some of the plants make it to next spring, as the hablitzia seems to good to be true a plant...



I'm going to try again this year, I think. I'm in 8a and it can get very hot here. I'm wondering if I might have better success just keeping the plants indoors until they are older. I'm starting to get into a routine of growing our typical Southern crops outdoors but keeping things that can't take the heat inside. I'm growing lettuces inside, for example, in Aerogardens, which I also use to start seeds.

Anyone have any luck at all growing hablitzia indoors without them collapsing?
 
Jan White
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Al William wrote:

Jan White wrote:



Apologies for the thread necromancy, but could you update on this, or is too early to tell?



I forgot to update last year. Both my plants made it through the winter. The one in the herb garden by the Saskatoon stayed very small and is probably dead. That garden has really terrible soil in it, plus some mugwort (allelopathic) kinda crowded it out.

The plant under the birch tree in the ornamental garden did pretty well, but obviously would have liked a bit more sunlight. I forgot to check on it through the dry part of the summer. By the time I remembered it had gone without water for a couple months and looked really rough. The spot under the birch is sheltered from light rain and stays drier than other places. I'll see how it is when warm weather stuff starts growing here.
 
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Thanks Jan, that's interesting and really relevant, as we have a birch tree under which we were hoping to plant but not sure what. So far we've sheeted it, and now planted buckwheat as a temporary groundcover and green manure. Sounds like we might try a mix in there next year and will include some caucasian spinach. When it comes to a shady patch like that - which is otherwise grass - a somewhat diminished crop of spinach is definitely better than nothing!

Jan White wrote:

Al William wrote:

Jan White wrote:



Apologies for the thread necromancy, but could you update on this, or is too early to tell?



I forgot to update last year. Both my plants made it through the winter. The one in the herb garden by the Saskatoon stayed very small and is probably dead. That garden has really terrible soil in it, plus some mugwort (allelopathic) kinda crowded it out.

The plant under the birch tree in the ornamental garden did pretty well, but obviously would have liked a bit more sunlight. I forgot to check on it through the dry part of the summer. By the time I remembered it had gone without water for a couple months and looked really rough. The spot under the birch is sheltered from light rain and stays drier than other places. I'll see how it is when warm weather stuff starts growing here.

 
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Any further updates?
 
Tristan Vitali
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Any further updates?



Not hardy in my wet, humid zone 4b. All my plants have died
 
I have gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, keep me here with this tiny ad:
Come visit Wheaton Labs - SEPPing at Basecamp for 40% off if you arrive before May 10th!
https://permies.com/wiki/251726/visit-Wheaton-Labs-SEPPing-Basecamp
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