Middle South

May, 2003
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

New Zealand Spinach
Of the three plants you'll often see suggested as hot-weather spinach substitutes (Malabar spinach, orach, and New Zealand spinach), my pick is the one brought to Europe from New Zealand in 1770. New Zealand spinach (classified as Tetragonia tetragonioides or T. expansa) grows into a small, shrubby plant that produces mild-flavored leaves that taste great in summer stir fries or pasta dishes. The best leaves for eating are the tender young leaves taken from stem tips. Regular cutting promotes the development of more bearing stems.

To get plants off to a timely start, nick the hard seeds with a knife and soak them in water overnight before planting them in the garden one-half inch deep and one foot apart. Planted now, New Zealand spinach will bear from midsummer until the next crop of real spinach is ready to pick in the fall.

Recipes

Freezing Leafy Greens
No matter how hard you try, you probably will not manage to consume all of your leafy greens before the plants bolt. Try this easy method for blanching and freezing small batches of spinach, mustard, arugula, or other greens. Blanching is crucial to preserving the nutrients in frozen greens.

Ingredients
5-6 cups whole spinach, mustard or arugula leaves, rinsed clean and shaken or spun until only slightly damp

Preparation
Place the greens in a microwave-safe bowl with a lid. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the greens wilt and become steaming hot. Place in small freezer containers and freeze.

To use, thaw at room temperature or by heating the container in warm water. Add the thawed greens to omelets, quiches, stir-fries, or hot cooked pasta.

Six cups of raw greens yields about one-half cup of blanched greens for the freezer.

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