Plant of the Month September 2016

Atriplex 2 websize

Atriplex hortensis also known as garden orache, red orach or mountain spinach is a Eurasian species in the amaranth family. It is native to Asia and Europe and widely grown.

Atriplex is an annual plant with an erect branching stem growing to a height of four to six feet. The leaves are oblong and thin, can be dark green or more usually dark red- purple. The flowers are insignificant but the seeds attractive and dark red. It self seeds prolifically. It can be wise to cut the stems before the seeds disperse. Germination the following year can produce a forest.

The leaves have a spinach like taste and when young can be used in salads or cooked. In early times in Mediterranean countries it was commonly grown until spinach became popular. An advantage in a hot climate is that it’s slower to bolt than spinach. It is also used to counteract the acidity of sorrel.

Sarah Raven writes enthusiastically about its multi purpose uses. She harvests it for salads four weeks after sowing in the spring. She thinks it looks attractive with cut flower arrangements of late summer flowers like dahlias and zinnias. She reports it has a vase life of seven days. Later in the year the drying seeds on the long stems are useful to flower arrangers.

At Reveley this year there is a stand of these tall plants mingled with the sun flowers at the top of the vegetable garden. The combination is a striking sight.

It is too late for salads this year but perhaps Mabel would like to try some young leaves in her lunch menus next spring!

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