Native to the steppes of northern and central Asia, mountain spinach was introduced to English gardens in 1548 where it thrived as both an ornamental—owing to its strikingly beautiful reddish-purple leaves—and a tasty leaf vegetable. Because it remains popular in French kitchens, this attractive, nutritious plant is also known as French spinach. No matter its name, this sturdy plant imparts a spinach taste to soups and salads, even though it bears no relationship to the true spinach plant at the grocery store.
What does it do?
Long ago mountain spinach earned high marks for dealing effectively with jaundice. It may become a valued crop in the near, overpopulated future, as it produces a concentrated protein useful to the foods industry. The leaves have been used externally to treat gout. Mountain spinach has been used to address several lung ailments. A good source of vitamin A, the seeds can be ground into meal and added to breads and soups. The seeds also provide a blue dye. The plant can be used in the emerging biofuel industry, having the capability of being converted into liquid or gaseous fuels.
About the herb
Also known as arrach, mountain spinach is thought to have been named after aurum, the Latin word for gold. It varies in leaf color, and the golden or yellow variety is said to offer the most flavor. This edible herb thrives in containers, and it lends itself toward being grown indoors. Still popular in Central Europe, mountain spinach has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for four thousand years.
Tolerant of mild frosts—as well as heat, cold and droughts—and easier to grow than regular spinach, mountain spinach can become your continuous source of young, tender salad greens from April through early fall (the older leaves can be briefly—under 5 minutes—cooked like spinach and other “greens). Plant the seeds every three or four weeks and watch wave after wave of this four-to-six-foot beauty add grace to your garden and color to your salad bowl!