Common Name: Garden Orache, Mountain Spinach
Latin Name: Atriplex hortensis
Family: Chenopodeaceae: Goosefoot family
This unusual, beautiful plant came to me in this lovely, hand packaged envelope of seeds.
A friend of mine, lovingly tends and collects seeds from her amazing garden, just over the hill from where I live. In her eclectic, organic garden, she grows many heirloom plants, such as orache. She dries the seeds and then painstakingly writes out the growing information about the seeds on these packets. My favorite sentence on the packet…Hardiness: Zone 3! One winter, I grabbed this tiny package of seeds during a holiday gift sale and my garden has included orache ever since. Some gardeners grow the light green orache variety but the burgundy variety is the one that graces my garden. Its striking color and texture make it one of the most asked about plants in my garden.
The young leaves can be eaten when tender, raw in salads. As the leaves age and get larger, they can be used as a substitute for spinach. The leaves do have a bit of a tart flavor that increases with age. We prefer them young, mixed into our salad greens.
Do the leaves look familiar to you? Probably because it is related to one of my least favorite weeds, Lambsquarters, which is also member of the Goosefoot family.
One last note: Orache is a steadfast addition to my garden, but to keep it this way, I do let it reseed. I am careful to keep the new seedlings under control. I don’t want this heirloom traveling to all corners of my garden.