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All about orach - a fantastic vegetable for your garden

 
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I Just Love Orach

Have you heard of orach? How about mountain spinach? Both are the same plant. Orach is a fantastic annual vegetable that is a great addition to any garden. I just love growing it and I wanted to share with you all a bit about orach in this week's blog post - Growing Orach – What You Need to Know

The post is broken into the following sections:

1. What is Orach? (And Why You Should Grow It)
2. Basics of Planting Orach
3. Harvesting and Using Orach
4. Get started With Orach

Have you grown orach? Please share you experience with it if you have!

Why I Love Orach



One of the fun reasons why I love orach is that it is a very colorful vegetable. It does come in green but there are also dark and bright red versions, some that are a mix of pink and green, plus some that are a yellow green. Having them all mixed together is really great and adds some fun colors to the garden.

It really stands out against all the green that a garden normally has.

But as a wild homesteader the biggest reason I love growing orach is how easy it is. Even when young orach rarely has any issues with pests (at least in my area). Slugs just leave it alone which here in western Washington is just awesome!

Orach is also very heat tolerant and it is great having a green that I can harvest all summer long.

I really like spinach but have always struggled with growing it without it bolting early. With orach I get a vegetable that tastes very similar and can be used just like spinach but that can also handle the heat.

The only potential downside of growing orach is how big it gets. Orach can get up to 10 feet tall but most of the time it tops out around 5 feet. Plus it gets big leaves so if you are not careful it can shade out a lot of other plants in your garden.

But you can also design with this in mind and use orach as a mini-hedgerow to block winds or provide afternoon shade. So it is both a plus and a minus in my book.

What About You



Does orach sound interesting to you? If so make sure to check out the blog post which has more information about orach.

So have you grown orach? If not does it sound like something you would be interested in growing? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts on growing orach.

I would love to hear your thoughts on growing orach! If you are one of the first to leave a comment on this thread there will likely be apples waiting for you. Plus, if you go to the blog post and are the first from permies to leave a non-spam comment on my blog post I got a piece of pie for you! Just make sure to comment here too saying you commented on the blog post so I can give you your pie (if you use 2 separate names please tell me!).

Thank you!
 
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I haven't tried orach yet, but it's one I'd like to try.

I'd like to use to use it to hopefully shade out some areas of my food forest around my fruit trees.

I'm guessing it is pretty fast growing due to the height it reaches and being an annual, has that been your experience when growing it?

Thanks for highlighting a great plant Daron, hope to try planting this soon!
 
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Do you have any information on anti-nutritional properties? Sometimes the more wild cousins at things we eat have a bit of something that we don't want. What about oxalic acid?
 
Daron Williams
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Steve Thorn wrote:I haven't tried orach yet, but it's one I'd like to try.

I'd like to use to use it to hopefully shade out some areas of my food forest around my fruit trees.

I'm guessing it is pretty fast growing due to the height it reaches and being an annual, has that been your experience when growing it?

Thanks for highlighting a great plant Daron, hope to try planting this soon!



Yeah, it can be a bit slow to get going but then it tends to take off. Though like a lot of vegetables it grows much slower in poorer soils. Last year I grew it in some new hugel beds that have good soil and the orach grew really quick. But in my front garden with poor soil it grew slow and only got up to about 2 feet in height.

This year in my new garden which is not great soil it seems to be slow but it is growing. But I also got it in late this year so I'm not sure how it compares.
 
Daron Williams
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Do you have any information on anti-nutritional properties? Sometimes the more wild cousins at things we eat have a bit of something that we don't want. What about oxalic acid?



It was a cultivated plant in Europe but I'm unsure about any anti-nutritional properties. I found this site that has some information though I'm unsure how accurate it is:

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/orach.html

That site states that orach has oxalic acid but less than spinach. I have not seen any warnings about it.

Looking at the site Plants for a Future:

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Atriplex+hortensis

The only warning they give is that if you use artificial fertilizers orach is known to concentrate the nitrates from the fertilizers. Hmm... I wonder if that is a reason why it is never seen in the stores? The seeds contain saponins but it sounds like it is poorly absorbed by the human body and can be removed by leeching the seeds. The seeds are apparently eaten by people but I have never tried doing so.

What do you think based on the info I found?
 
pollinator
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Glad you’re mentioning it.

Growing up (in a faraway country in Eastern Europe), my grandma always had it in her garden. Orach would self seed, and all she had to do was save the plants when she was weeding.

Grandma would use it in soups mostly, I don’t really remember any other ways of cooking it.

Now I use it to replace spinach in just about any dish that calls for it☺️

I think it’s been grown for a long long time in certain parts of the world.


 
Dale Hodgins
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Whenever you're searching out new leafy vegetables, it can be useful to look at all the different things that saag is made from.

For those unfamiliar, it is the name for a wide variety of Indian stewed vegetable leaves that are spiceed in hundreds of different ways depending on available resources and which state of India or other country it's being made in. There are populations of Indians on every continent who have incorporated locally available greens into their own versions.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saag
 
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I am growing it for the first time this year. I've been harvesting / pinching it back down when it gets over about a foot. So far I've only used it in salad. It's a little salty, which seems like a nice thing mixed in salad with other things.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Do you have any information on anti-nutritional properties? Sometimes the more wild cousins at things we eat have a bit of something that we don't want. What about oxalic acid?



I could swear I read or heard somewhere about more recent studies that have show the oxalic acid naturally found in foods is not something we need to be concerned about.  Unfortunately I can't seem to hunt that down again to substantiate that claim.  I think the closest thing I'm finding right now is this video from Dr. Greger at Nutrition Facts.org  https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-treat-kidney-stones-with-diet/

Often the concern with oxalic acid is that it would add to the formation of kidney stones.  The video shows studies that indicate just the opposite, eating more plants, including those with oxalic acid reduces the risk of kidney stones.

As far as Orach goes, I've tried and tried to grow it, but just a can't seem to get any success with it.  That's a bummer because I'd really like to have it.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I wonder if the companies selling seed mention soil requirements. Something that tastes salty might just need that salt. So I wonder if it does poorly for those who have very little salt. My former landlord used to put sea water on his beets and celery because his lights soil gets a thorough washing every year during the winter deluge.
 
pollinator
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I stuck some red orach in some very poor soil this year, mostly to mark out/cover some soil where I planted some other things, so it hasn't done super well but I wasn't really expecting it to. Slugs haven't touched it but I've seen ants walking around with the small leaves. Not sure if it was intending to eat it or use it to build something. Interesting to know that it self-seeds; maybe I'll have more next year. :)
 
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I just got a pack of orach seed in the mail.
Geoff Lawton used it and praised its qualities for both his Zaytuna farm and his project in Jordan.

Both mediterranean and desert soils often have high salinity, so a tolerance for it would make sense.
Less oxalic acid than spinach is great news as it should be more palatable raw.

It's the same family as the Australian saltbush and is related to the Chenopodium.
 
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I'd never heard of this vegetable before. After reading that slugs leave it alone, and that it's heat tolerant, I now will have to try growing it!
 
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As to some of the other respondents, this is a new one to me. The only success I've had with spinach is when I remember to sow it in the fall and protect it over the winter. I have yet to get it to grow well with direct seeding in the spring. Maybe orach is worth a try. Thanks for the article.
 
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I'm in S. FL – zone 10. Has anyone from my area tried this?

Thanks!

Cara
 
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We love orach! It is an awesome self-seeder. We also grow some giant lambs quarter that we got from Jerome at CRMPI that does well under the same conditions.
 
pollinator
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I have been trying to start Orach in small peat pellests all spring.  They would get 2 to 3 inches tall and then die.  I planted one that survived out on a 5 gallon bucket and it does not seem to go anywhere.  I will now try some coffee grounds mixed with compost in my soil to see if I can get it to start that way.  
 
pollinator
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Another article on whether, or not, oxalic acid in foods is dangerous, or even absorbable.
https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/oxalic-acid-foods-8447.html
 
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I grew orach some years ago and like it very much, mostly in salads.

Lately I've ordered seeds for it from several companies but none of them will germinate!

Anyone know of a source who provides viable seeds?
 
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Last year I ordered seeds for red orach from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. Very few seeds sprouted.
A few did and then reseeded and 6 plants came up on their own.

I had a few seeds left and tried to start them this spring with my other garden plants. None sprouted.

What I'm thinking is it sprouted better when the seeds were outside overwinter, in the garden beds.

Recently read an article stating the oxalic isn't an issue.

https://www.gardenmyths.com/oxalic-acid-rhubarb-leaves-harm-you/

 
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I am in New Zealand and my partner calls the plant we have here that I know as 'Magenta Spreen' or 'Lambs quarter' Orach. It looks different to the plants you show in the pictures having green leaves with a purple powdery 'bloom' on the underside of the leaves (which can be brushed off). Is this the same plant?
 
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I am growing red Orach from Baker creek seeds for the first time this year and more than 50% are germinating for me. I am glad I tried this because I actually like the taste so far and hope to use it in salads. The ones I tried to plant from seed outdoors mostly got eaten by something unseen but the ones I transplanted are doing alright. I have started more seed hoping to get a larger crop. I don't have ideal growing conditions because I don't have a full size garden and struggle to get enough light with neighbors trees but so far I have high hopes and like I stated what does grow tastes good so I hope it does reseed itself.
 
Daron Williams
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Liv – Thank you so much for the comment! That is really interesting to hear how your grandmother used it. I read a bit about its history but most of the sources made it sound like it was not used much anymore. Very interesting to hear that it is still being used!

Dale – Nice! Thanks for the suggestion and I have had saag but I did not know how much it varied. About the salty taste… I don’t know. I have grown it in just regular garden soil and it seemed happy. My wife and I and my parents did not notice any salty taste but other family members did.

Rebecca – Nice! The salty taste is interesting. My brother’s wife says it has a salty taste too but my wife and I don’t notice it. Just interesting how that aspect of the taste seems to vary between people.

David – Interesting! I tend to think that eating a lot of plants is a great thing and good for us. Thanks for sharing.

Meg – You might consider only letting the best plants go to seed. Overtime that could get you a variety of orach that does great in the poor soils you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

Jondo – Nice! I didn’t know that Geoff Lawton grows it. I hope yours do well and thanks for the info!

Kate – Hope it does well for you! It is at least more heat tolerant than spinach and lettuce but I’m not sure how hot it can handle.

Ban – You should try it! 😊 Spinach has never done great for me so orach has been a nice alternative.

Cara – Not sure about how it would do in your zone. It has a high germination rate so you could get a small seed pack and give it a go.

Dave – Nice! Thanks for the comment!

Dennis – Interesting – I have not had that issue so far. The only issue I had was in poor soil conditions they would just grow to about a foot with very small leaves. But in better soil they have been doing great. Not sure why yours would be struggling…

Nancy – Thanks for the info!

Victor – Sorry to hear about that issue! The seeds I got from Wild Garden Seed have done great for me: https://www.wildgardenseed.com/

Bocca – Interesting that germination has been an issue for you. Here germination has been very easy in a variety of soils. Since a few others mentioned similar issues I wonder if weather differences have something to do with it…

Rex – I think that is a different plant though I’m not sure. Can you post a picture?

Barbara – Thanks for sharing and good to hear that yours are germinating well! I wonder what was eating them… The normal pests in my area don’t seem to bother orach. Thanks for sharing!
 
Liv Smith
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Rex Graveley wrote:I am in New Zealand and my partner calls the plant we have here that I know as 'Magenta Spreen' or 'Lambs quarter' Orach. It looks different to the plants you show in the pictures having green leaves with a purple powdery 'bloom' on the underside of the leaves (which can be brushed off). Is this the same plant?



It’s possible yours is a cultivated variety of Chenopodium Album. I had some growing one year from a packet of mix seed. I let it go to seed, and now my whole garden is full of them. They are edible, and we do eat them in the spring, but I am sorry to have left them take over my garden.

They say one plant can produce up to 75,000 seeds. I totally believe that!
 
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Let it go to flower, gorgeous color with the sun on the seedpods, and just drop it's seeds everywhere, it's such a lush addition to an early spring salad when hundreds of baby mountain spinaches raise their heads, resisting frost and all.
I used it so much i was lacking, then i turned my raised beds into a hugel culture this year and they came back en masse, lying dormant in the soil. I've sawn phacelia for the bees in the picture, and there is broad bean and rough comfrey, a more shallow but rapid spreader, but excellent bee plant.
mountain-spinach.jpg
[Thumbnail for mountain-spinach.jpg]
 
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Thanks for the info! Just ordered some seeds with the hope they will grow in our subtropical climate :)
 
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Would anybody care to opine whether the generic looking seedling in this photo might be a young orach?

It’s an unfamiliar plant to me, but a permies person sent me a baggie of seed along with some other seed swap we did several years ago. And I have faithfully planted some every year. Never had germination. This year I mixed and planted a bunch of old herb and greens seeds in a calf tub planter that’s part of my kitchen garden, including the final seed dregs from that orach baggie. Purslane and sorrel are mostly volunteering in this sector, but the “big” thing is either a random weed or the sole seed from that baggie to ever germinate.
79A36051-798F-4D05-9C7A-71E945CEA524.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 79A36051-798F-4D05-9C7A-71E945CEA524.jpeg]
Smol tender green thing
 
Dale Hodgins
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I've seen some amaranth leaves that look like that , but there's quite a bit of variation since there are so many types. It's also edible , but that's just a guess at this point. It also has reddish purple variants. It would probably be more apparent if allowed to go to seed .
 
Dan Boone
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Thanks, Dale.  I have several wild amaranth varieties that pop up as weeds (meaning I don't normally make use of them, nor recognize them as such until they go to seed) in the vicinity of my garden.  And this tub is filled with weedy soil from last year's pots and containers, plus it was next to our bird feeding station for six months, so it could have any seed in our seed bank in there.
 
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