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!!!!!! Caucasian mountain spinach

 
Daron Williams
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Hey has any one grow Caucasian mountain spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides)? I sowed some seeds for it this year and I have a bunch of seedlings coming up now--I'm excited to try it based on what I have read.

Mountain spinach is edible and is supposed to be a really good green. There is supposed to be no bitterness to the leaves even when they get old--though old leaves are better cooked while younger leaves are supposed to be great raw.

This plant is native to the Caucasus and is a vine that can climb over 10 feet. It dies back each winter but regrows in the spring. Once established you're supposed to be able to divide it by the roots to get more plants. But so far it seems like it grows from seed fairly easily based on my limited experience this year.

From my readings in its native range it tends to grow under trees where it gets an early start in the spring before the trees all leaf out. Apparently the leaves grown in semi-shade are more tender than those grown in full sun. This makes me think that mountain spinach could be a great food forest plant!

Mountain spinach is a perennial and from what I have read it can live for 50+ years! Plus it is supposed to be hardy down to zone 8--I got seeds from a company in Maine. My climate might be a little warm for it but I'm growing it on arched trellises with scarlet runner beans on the opposite side of the trellis. I'm making sure that the scarlet runner beans will provide some shade and shelter in the summer heat.

I did read that mountain spinach doesn't like "wet feet". Since I live in an area that stays wet during the winter I built small raised beds at the base of my trellises to improve drainage. Hopefully this will keep my plants happy--so far the seedlings seem happy but they're very small at the moment.

I'm really excited about this new (for me) perennial green since it should produce a ton of greens from early spring through the fall in semi-shade and should live for a very long time! Though I will likely have to wait till next year to get a harvest from it--sounds like it's slow growing during its first year. But if the plants are going to live for 50+ years I can wait a year to harvest!

This plant may end up being a major part of my goal of growing all my own greens (raw and cooked) as perennials. I may still grow some lettuce and other annual greens but I would rather they just start to self-seed I think in my climate it should be possible to grow all my own greens as perennials. Mountain spinach should be a big help with that goal!

But in addition to being a source of greens--apparently the young spring shoots are a great vegetable too. From the sounds of it these shoots are available very early in spring. I'm curious how early the shoots will show up in my climate once the plants get established.

So have any of you grown this plant? Let me know if you have! I would love to hear your experience with it!

Here are some links with more information:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hablitzia
- http://www.ridgedalepermaculture.com/blog/perennial-plant-profiles49
- https://www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk/hablitzia-tamnoides-how-to-grow/
Hablitzia_tamnoides_flower_buds.jpg
Close up of the flowers and leaves - By Marc de Ruijter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83808880
Close up of the flowers and leaves - By Marc de Ruijter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83808880
Hablitzia_tamnoides_plants_in_flower_01.jpg
Growing up a trellis and in bloom - By Marc de Ruijter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83808881
Growing up a trellis and in bloom - By Marc de Ruijter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83808881
 
Diane Kistner
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Daron Williams wrote:Hey has any one grow Caucasian mountain spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides)? I sowed some seeds for it this year and I have a bunch of seedlings coming up now--I'm excited to try it based on what I have read.



Daron, I got Hablitzia tamnoides seeds last year and started them, but they didn't do well for me. I don't know if it was the heat or the drought we had here in Athens, Georgia, but I was disappointed. I figured Zone 8a might be too far outside of their usual zone to succeed. But I've still got some seeds so I may try them again.

Did you plant in a shady area or sunny?

 
Daron Williams
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One set of seeds is in full sun and the other is in semi shade. But in both cases I'm adding scarlet runner beans to the same trellis (opposite side of arched trellises) to provide some additional shade. Though the runner beans won't be big enough to provide shade until later in the summer but I'm hoping that will be fine since it shouldn't be too hot before then.
 
greg mosser
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any updates, daron?

i've got hablitzia seedlings for probably the 5th or 6th time and have yet to get any to adulthood. potting up, planting out, sun, part-shade, really shady, feeding, no feeding, nothing has gotten me past about 5 inches tall before they crash. usually it's sooner. as a perennial vegetable enthusiast, i'm really excited about this plant's possibilities but have been trying for many years without success.

my current seedlings just came up overnight, so i've got a little while to decide what to try this year (won't do anything until they have true leaves)...was hoping someone here would have ideas, but it looks like you didn't get much input when you asked only recently.
 
Daron Williams
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At the moment my seedlings are all still very small though they're starting to show signs of their first true leaves. I have read they're very slow during their first year so I'm hoping they keep growing and do better next year.

I can't tell if they're on their way out or just being slow...
 
Daron Williams
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Thought it was time for an update. I ended up losing all but 1 of my seedlings. But the remaining one seems to be doing great and even recovered from a slug finding it. I'm really hoping it gets a bit bigger before this fall. Of course once fall comes it will die back and then I will just have to wait and see if it comes back in the spring--assuming of course it survives over the summer.

But I'm thrilled to see how well it's doing and I really hope it keeps doing well. If it comes back next year I hope to be able to get some seeds from it so I can try to get some more started. Though if it survives and does well in a couple years I should be able to divide it into a couple separate plants and replant them in a couple areas. I would love to have 3-5 of these plants in the future so I would have a never ending supply of greens!
caucasian-mountain-spinach.jpg
My little Caucasian mountain spinach plant! The one survivor but so far it's doing great!
My little Caucasian mountain spinach plant! The one survivor but so far it's doing great!
 
Anne Pratt
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I bought these seeds this year.  Got started late, and when I got to them, the instructions said to cold-stratify for a month!  Planting is tomorrow.

My instructions also said they are slow starters, and to keep them in a one-gallon pot for the entire first year.

There ya go, Daron!  That's all I know.  I can't wait until next year, though, when I presumably can taste this wonder for the first time!
 
Daron Williams
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Anne Pratt wrote:I bought these seeds this year.  Got started late, and when I got to them, the instructions said to cold-stratify for a month!  Planting is tomorrow.

My instructions also said they are slow starters, and to keep them in a one-gallon pot for the entire first year.

There ya go, Daron!  That's all I know.  I can't wait until next year, though, when I presumably can taste this wonder for the first time!



Interesting--thanks for sharing! I might have to try growing them in a pot for a year next time to help make sure more survive.
 
J Davis
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Daron, I know you like wild edibles so am curious if you also cultivate pigweed (wild spinach).

It is easy to grow, nutritious, and self seeding.
 
Dennis Bangham
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I am trying to grow another "Mountain Spinach" called Orach or "Atriplex hortensis".  First time to get starts into the ground.  Will see how it goes.
 
Chris Whitehouse
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Hi, I grew some from seed last year and got 4 plants to maturity. In fact they grew like crazy and reached the top of the 6ft cane teepee I provided. They grow in full sun for most of the day, heavy shade from md afternoon onwards. They survived the winter fine and it was fun seeing them starting to grow again this spring. I have used the growing tips for salads, and the main leaves for spinach. Sadly it has flowered quite early this year and hasn't been quite so vigorous- just wondering whether to cut it hard back and see how it regrows. At the moment it is in my main veggie bed, but takes up a lot of room, so planning to move itiinto my developing food forest aka fruit orchard in the winter. Really please with it so far, definitely worth a punt!
 
Joe Grand
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But, but what does it taste like, I will eat anything that will keep me alive, if needed.
I don't need to do that right now, so are they better than garden greens, almost as good?
Really bad, but filling?
 
R Laurance
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I sowed seeds for Causasian Spinach three years ago and now have two plants flowering at about 2 meters high (south Sweden), alongside my compost bin. We have a different zone numbering system so that doesn't translate as easily. However, Daron, I am a native Oregonian and know your climate well. It is close to the same here in this region, though some winters may be colder here dipping down to about 2°-3° F for a few days, but have only experienced that once in the 20 years I've been here.  

In regards to more info from my personal observations thus far in growing the Causasian Spinach; I agree it could be a good perennial inclusian into the forest garden setting for an additional supply of greens and one that also fits into the climbing vine classification. I have only eaten it on two occasions... and a third tonight as I will be baking some spanakopita this evening using it along with New Zealand spinach as replacements for regular spinach. The taste to me is nothing special, just a green (no chlorophyll aftertaste, that's always good). However having grown and used New Zealand spinach in my food forest for the past six years, I prefer it to the Caucasian spinach, in taste and productivity, but encourage planting both for diversity's sake plus extra security with diverse edibles.

New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonoides in my opinion has both a better flavor, and is more productive. The leaves are much thicker than the Causasian spinach leaves, being nearly a succulent type of leaf whereas the Caucasian leaves are quite thin so in cooking requires much more for the same amount of volume. Leaf for leaf, the NZ spinach is about four times heavier (more water, no doubt). Wikipedia states that some places have classified the NZ spinach as an invasive plant. I can attest to that as being a possibility and I exploit that potential to keep it in my growing area. It produces one flower (one large seed) at every leaf node and is a sprawling grower quickly growing in all directions. It is a perrenial in its native habitat but here in Sweden it is only an annual, yet reseeds itself quite easily sprouting every Spring on its own, from the masses of previous year's seeds. In the gardening area where I keep it contained, to a degree, it starts growing from sprouts about the first of June, and unlike 'real' spinach it doesn't bolt with hotter days ... I guess with one seed at every leaf node one could say it is in a constant bolt, though. Whilst I am putting out and maintaining my regular annual garden veggies I note if and where the new plants are sprouting. If they are too close to an area that I feel they would overcrowd, I just pluck up the seedling. If there is ample space, I allow it to grow until it begins impinging on other favored plants at which time I either harvest the leaves for the freezer or add the plant to the compost pile as it makes abundant green biomass. It doesn't seem to continue growing from remaining bits of roots left in the soil. Additionally, the hens love it, so at times I have blocked off an area of the garden and invited them in for a week to scratch around and consume the greens. All in all, I don't feel that NZ spinach is cumbersome with maintenance work and tends to have a high yield of use in our permaculture system.

That being said, I would have to add that the Caucasian spinach might involve as much maintenance time overall; requiring more time in picking the same equivalent of food product, an annual removal of vines to compost, and as it tends to have masses of flowers/seeds that could be dispersed on the ground if they are of high viability then pulling up plants in unwanted places becomes the equivalent of weeding for the NZ spinach sprouts. I haven't noticed any great viability of the vine's seeds to date, though I have clipped off the flowers towards the end of the flowering stage. Nectar for little critters, up to that point!  

Every year I allow a number of plants; Lettuce, Asian celery, Red Orache, Carrots, Fennel, Chard, Arugula, NZ spinach and a few others to seed and I allow them to remain in the garden through the Winter... self-sowing. After seven years of doing this we have a diverse food forest including many regular annual vegetables that are allowed to grow where they found a niche. Looking for food now is always rewarding. Our asparagus seeds being eaten by birds have now been transported alongside the road near the house and possibly elsewhere unbeknownst to us... just as they have brought to us numerous other plants such as the seven elder trees that we now maintain for wine and kombucha making along with pies, marmalade and syrups.

We still do germinate and sow some annual veggies, plus potatoes and squashes and tomatoes, but we have many, many volunteer plants that gives us a wonderful abundance. Sometimes if asked by my wife if we have any coriander, I'll respond...'yes, I saw some yesterday in 'aisle 3- between the yellow onions and the black mulberry' or wherever else I may have noticed a plant growing. It's just a new way of 'shopping' ....

Wish you the best....





rankspenat.jpg
Caucasian spinach (l) and Salvia (r)
Caucasian spinach (l) and Salvia (r)
NZspenat.jpg
New Zealand Spinach (center)
New Zealand Spinach (center)
spenat-comp.jpg
Comparison of NZ spinach (top )and Caucasian spinach (bottom)
Comparison of NZ spinach (top )and Caucasian spinach (bottom)
 
Diane Kistner
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R Laurance wrote:New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonoides in my opinion has both a better flavor, and is more productive. The leaves are much thicker than the Causasian spinach leaves, being nearly a succulent type of leaf whereas the Caucasian leaves are quite thin so in cooking requires much more for the same amount of volume. Leaf for leaf, the NZ spinach is about four times heavier (more water, no doubt). Wikipedia states that some places have classified the NZ spinach as an invasive plant. I can attest to that as being a possibility and I exploit that potential to keep it in my growing area. It produces one flower (one large seed) at every leaf node and is a sprawling grower quickly growing in all directions. It is a perrenial in its native habitat but here in Sweden it is only an annual, yet reseeds itself quite easily sprouting every Spring on its own, from the masses of previous year's seeds. In the gardening area where I keep it contained, to a degree, it starts growing from sprouts about the first of June, and unlike 'real' spinach it doesn't bolt with hotter days ... I guess with one seed at every leaf node one could say it is in a constant bolt, though. Whilst I am putting out and maintaining my regular annual garden veggies I note if and where the new plants are sprouting. If they are too close to an area that I feel they would overcrowd, I just pluck up the seedling. If there is ample space, I allow it to grow until it begins impinging on other favored plants at which time I either harvest the leaves for the freezer or add the plant to the compost pile as it makes abundant green biomass. It doesn't seem to continue growing from remaining bits of roots left in the soil. Additionally, the hens love it, so at times I have blocked off an area of the garden and invited them in for a week to scratch around and consume the greens. All in all, I don't feel that NZ spinach is cumbersome with maintenance work and tends to have a high yield of use in our permaculture system.



So helpful! Thank you!
 
Tristan Vitali
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R Laurance wrote:We have a different zone numbering system so that doesn't translate as easily. However, Daron, I am a native Oregonian and know your climate well. It is close to the same here in this region, though some winters may be colder here dipping down to about 2°-3° F for a few days, but have only experienced that once in the 20 years I've been here.  



I actually started some this year from our local seed coop - they're claiming to be growing it down to a zone 3! Sounds like this plant has quite a range, which is always a good sign.
 
Chris Whitehouse
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I would say hablitzia doesn't have a great deal of taste, but certainly not unpleasant. Might be a good alternative to spinach for children who find spinach too strong?
Re the comments on extra time harvesting, I tend to cut whole stems, then strip the leaves quite easily. Keeps it under control a bit!
I think on th whole worth growing for the diversity, but am definitely going to cut the flowers before they seed.

Another good green I have tried this year is Good King Henry and that does have a different flavour.
 
Al William
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Posting here so I can keep track of the information mostly - don't have a success story of my own to add! We planted some in a bed with some courgette* plants. The plan was that the spinach would shoot up at the same time the courgette plants sprawled, so we could maximise the use of vertical space. The problem was, I must have got the timing wrong, because the spinach didn't grow anywhere near as enthusiastically as the squash plants, so they are now cowering slightly under some massive squash leaves! I'm hoping that they will desperately clamber their way past to get some sun - they have grown a little.

Also, doesn't seem to be mentioned here but I think I heard about it from Geoff Lawton on 'The Survival Podcast' - Malabar spinach (Basella alba) - another climbing 'spinach' that grows effectively as a perennial.


*Sorry, just realised that this might not mean anything to many people! It's what we call zucchini in Britain.
 
Anne Pratt
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Al, I have read that it is slow the first year.

For those experiencing (or, like me, anticipating) failure, I found this website:

https://godasagardener.com/2017/07/11/caucasian-mountain-spinach/

She is located in Virginia and is a Master Gardener, according to the site.

She had success after multiple failures, and wrote:

"This year, I finally made a breakthrough: I have continued using more and more rock powder, with better and better results for the plants. Most botanists describe mountain spinach as a ‘woodland’ plant; but the situations that seem to give the best results simulate dry river beds, or rock crevices. They seem to like tons of available minerals, little nitrogen, and alternating dry and wet, with lots of sun. Providing enough rock seems to be especially important.

"Once the seedlings achieved true leaves, I transplanted into simple, un-amended clay I dug up from under a healthy clover plant, mixed with wollastonite until it was white. I put the transplanted seedlings in the shade, and didn’t water for the first day. When I finally watered, I put them in full sun for a couple of hours, to day off the leaves and then put them in the shade.

"Yes, one continued to grow beyond the size of any I have grown. Then it vined! It even bloomed! This spring, it’s sprouting!

Obviously I’m just short of delirious. What’s more, I am reverse engineering the heck out of this situation in the hopes I can actually get one to grow in Mortal Tree. I transplanted several of the other plants to the food forest last year. They all died -some due to animals though. Perhaps they would have overcome the wilt otherwise."

I found another website that said it thrived in rich loam and manure!

And this was interesting:

"GROWING TIPS: The best way to germinate seeds (from our experience) is to plant them just below the surface of moist seed starting mix in a small, covered dish and place in the refrigerator. The seeds will sprout within about a month, at which point they should be removed from the fridge and brought outside (but watch they don't get fried in the sun those first few days). Seeds require cool temperatures to germinate. If they don't sprout after a month, take them outside anyway, and they will probably sprout soon after. Young seedlings are tiny and fragile, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out or overheat. Plants will be small their first year, but will grow larger in each subsequent year, eventually forming a big clump. Put in a location where they can climb extensively."

- from https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/products/caucasian-mountain-spinach-breeding-mix

Interesting breeding project recruiting amateur breeders to add diversity to seed stock on that one.

Forging ahead for survival on earth!

 
Al William
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Anne Pratt wrote:Al, I have read that it is slow the first year.



Thanks, they have got a littler larger but will make sure they aren't so shaded out by squash leaves next year. Hopefully they will have the head start next year they need to climb above whatever else we put in them with there.
 
Anne Pratt
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I also noticed that another perennial, Sea Kale, is extremely slow to grow.  My tomatoes are putting out little round green orbs, but the sea kale has just developed its first true leaves, and they are s.l.o.w.l.y growing.  I planted 5 or 6 seeds, and 3 came up.  I'm happy!
 
John Suavecito
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I grew some last year. Like Daron said, they don't like wet feet. We have wet winters and mine died in the winter. It didn't grow back. I am going to start some seeds in some containers in which I'm growing thyme, Baikal skullcap, and Licorice. They all like dry feet. I put a rain cover over them for the winter, and they love that.  They should do well in that situation, with full sun, I think.
John S
PDX OR
 
John Weiland
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Does anyone have an idea for the degree of winter cold the Caucasian spinach can handle?   We have frost depth of ~ 5 ft (1.5 meters) and periods in the -20 to -30 F range.  Somewhat heavy clay soil, but that could be modified. Thanks!
 
greg mosser
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Anne Pratt wrote:

"This year, I finally made a breakthrough: I have continued using more and more rock powder, with better and better results for the plants. Most botanists describe mountain spinach as a ‘woodland’ plant; but the situations that seem to give the best results simulate dry river beds, or rock crevices. They seem to like tons of available minerals, little nitrogen, and alternating dry and wet, with lots of sun. Providing enough rock seems to be especially important.



this is great info, as is avoiding wet feet. we tend to have a wet winter here too (and spring, and sometimes summer)....new plan is a raised and extra-rocky bed i guess!
 
Anne Pratt
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John, I don't know the answer.  I did look at the Fedco seed site for the seeds.  They are located in Maine (in zone 4) and said that this plant can grow in Zone 3.  Not sure what that means for you.  Maybe they could offer some guidance?

They said this:

" Hablitzia tamnoides Open-pollinated perennial, Zones 3-6. The surprise sensation of our 2015 catalog, Hablitzia’s success motivated us to ramp up our perennial vegetable selection. Too new to have an agreed-upon common name, this plant has everything else. Originating in the Caucasus Mountains, it is a very hardy perennial, growing 6–9' long for 2–3 months in the very early spring when few other edible greens have surfaced. It’s also tasty: both early shoots and subsequent leaves make a delicious and tender spinach-like vegetable without any bitterness. Moreover, it’s beautiful, and was introduced into Sweden around 1870 as an attractive vine to screen houses with its heart-shaped leaves. And, finally, though it is best grown in sun to maximize its productivity, it will also do well in its native habitat, the understory of temperate forests. Best germinated with stratification, and slow-growing in the first year."

Fedco Seeds website

Good luck!  and wish me luck!
 
Anne Pratt
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greg mosser wrote:

Anne Pratt wrote:

"This year, I finally made a breakthrough: I have continued using more and more rock powder, with better and better results for the plants. Most botanists describe mountain spinach as a ‘woodland’ plant; but the situations that seem to give the best results simulate dry river beds, or rock crevices. They seem to like tons of available minerals, little nitrogen, and alternating dry and wet, with lots of sun. Providing enough rock seems to be especially important.



this is great info, as is avoiding wet feet. we tend to have a wet winter here too (and spring, and sometimes summer)....new plan is a raised and extra-rocky bed i guess!



What do you all think about planting the seedlings in pure clay?  Seems a little intense to me, but then she is the Master Gardener.

Anybody have thoughts on this?

Is RedHawk in the house?
 
John Suavecito
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If you have clay and really wet winters, it will probably die.  I would add gravel to the soil and wood chips, mulch, or compost on top over time, to improve the drainage and organic material over time.
John S
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greg mosser
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'pure clay amended with wollastonite until white' - i had to look up wollastonite but i take that to mean enough of this calcium inosilicate material (probably crystalline/somewhat granular?) added to the clay that you can't tell what color the clay was before.  i.e. not very pure clay anymore - extra mineralized and probably much more well-draining.

she's also talking about moving them into the sun for watering, so they're in pots of some kind, and have improved drainage from that...not that my potted hablitzia aren't serioously stunted and struggling, but they're in a high-organic mix that retains water well. i guess my first step should be swapping out for more mineral, well-draining soil.
 
Anne Pratt
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I have some clay but only in one section (a very wet section).  I wouldn't describe our winters as "wet" - more like "frozen" and "snow-covered."  Although wet has been known to happen.  My instructions for planting say to keep these in pots (1 gallon) for the first year, as they are slow to establish.  I'm just puzzling about what medium to plant them in when they sprout.  

I found wollastonite in an art-supply online store for USD $15.  It's used to extend pigments - above my art knowledge.  (I do know my colors, though.)  Maybe I'll get some.  If I do, the dang stuff had better grow!

online art supply store
 
greg mosser
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i just mixed up a new well-draining mix with sand and silt from the creek (and much less organic matter) and transplanted into it. i have clay but i'm not going to focus on that part. they look really bad, so i dunno. it may be too late for this round.
 
Anne Pratt
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Fingers crossed, Greg.
 
John Suavecito
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Careful about mixing sand with clay. That's how they make cobh benches-much like cement! I would much rather put gravel in my clay and add organic matter.
That lets the soil drain.  Very important.
John S
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Daron Williams
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The soils here tend to be fairly heavy and can be fully saturated all winter long. To try to keep my Caucasian mountain spinach alive I built a small raised bed before sowing the seeds so any resulting plants could be above the surrounding ground. I also keep everything around the bed mulched which I've noticed seems to help avoid standing water. But there is also a slope here so the water should move away from the mountain spinach plant I currently have. But from digging holes for a fence a year a go I know this area can get fully saturated--so I will see if the raised bed is enough to keep this plant happy over the winter.

I really hope it survives the winter. It has finally started to put on a bunch of growth and is doing great. I also tasted a leaf and I thought it was quite good--it would be great to have it growing up and over the top of the trellis.

I want to get another plant established on this trellis and then 2 more plants on another trellis. This would be a ton of leaves to harvest if the plant did well!

Here is a recent picture showing its growth so far. Still not huge but a lot bigger than it was at the end of spring.
caucasian-mountain-spinach.jpg
The mountain spinach is the plant in the middle between the 2 nasturtiums. I keep those pruned back but they help provide a little shade and cover for the mountain spinach.
The mountain spinach is the plant in the middle between the 2 nasturtiums. I keep those pruned back but they help provide a little shade and cover for the mountain spinach.
 
Daron Williams
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J Davis wrote:Daron, I know you like wild edibles so am curious if you also cultivate pigweed (wild spinach).

It is easy to grow, nutritious, and self seeding.



I haven't tried growing it yet but it's around my place. I've been interested in it but just haven't gotten around to it. So many plants to try!
 
Daron Williams
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R Laurance wrote:I sowed seeds for Causasian Spinach three years ago and now have two plants flowering at about 2 meters high (south Sweden), alongside my compost bin. We have a different zone numbering system so that doesn't translate as easily. However, Daron, I am a native Oregonian and know your climate well. It is close to the same here in this region, though some winters may be colder here dipping down to about 2°-3° F for a few days, but have only experienced that once in the 20 years I've been here.  

In regards to more info from my personal observations thus far in growing the Causasian Spinach; I agree it could be a good perennial inclusian into the forest garden setting for an additional supply of greens and one that also fits into the climbing vine classification. I have only eaten it on two occasions... and a third tonight as I will be baking some spanakopita this evening using it along with New Zealand spinach as replacements for regular spinach. The taste to me is nothing special, just a green (no chlorophyll aftertaste, that's always good). However having grown and used New Zealand spinach in my food forest for the past six years, I prefer it to the Caucasian spinach, in taste and productivity, but encourage planting both for diversity's sake plus extra security with diverse edibles.

New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonoides in my opinion has both a better flavor, and is more productive. The leaves are much thicker than the Causasian spinach leaves, being nearly a succulent type of leaf whereas the Caucasian leaves are quite thin so in cooking requires much more for the same amount of volume. Leaf for leaf, the NZ spinach is about four times heavier (more water, no doubt). Wikipedia states that some places have classified the NZ spinach as an invasive plant. I can attest to that as being a possibility and I exploit that potential to keep it in my growing area. It produces one flower (one large seed) at every leaf node and is a sprawling grower quickly growing in all directions. It is a perrenial in its native habitat but here in Sweden it is only an annual, yet reseeds itself quite easily sprouting every Spring on its own, from the masses of previous year's seeds. In the gardening area where I keep it contained, to a degree, it starts growing from sprouts about the first of June, and unlike 'real' spinach it doesn't bolt with hotter days ... I guess with one seed at every leaf node one could say it is in a constant bolt, though. Whilst I am putting out and maintaining my regular annual garden veggies I note if and where the new plants are sprouting. If they are too close to an area that I feel they would overcrowd, I just pluck up the seedling. If there is ample space, I allow it to grow until it begins impinging on other favored plants at which time I either harvest the leaves for the freezer or add the plant to the compost pile as it makes abundant green biomass. It doesn't seem to continue growing from remaining bits of roots left in the soil. Additionally, the hens love it, so at times I have blocked off an area of the garden and invited them in for a week to scratch around and consume the greens. All in all, I don't feel that NZ spinach is cumbersome with maintenance work and tends to have a high yield of use in our permaculture system.

That being said, I would have to add that the Caucasian spinach might involve as much maintenance time overall; requiring more time in picking the same equivalent of food product, an annual removal of vines to compost, and as it tends to have masses of flowers/seeds that could be dispersed on the ground if they are of high viability then pulling up plants in unwanted places becomes the equivalent of weeding for the NZ spinach sprouts. I haven't noticed any great viability of the vine's seeds to date, though I have clipped off the flowers towards the end of the flowering stage. Nectar for little critters, up to that point!  

Every year I allow a number of plants; Lettuce, Asian celery, Red Orache, Carrots, Fennel, Chard, Arugula, NZ spinach and a few others to seed and I allow them to remain in the garden through the Winter... self-sowing. After seven years of doing this we have a diverse food forest including many regular annual vegetables that are allowed to grow where they found a niche. Looking for food now is always rewarding. Our asparagus seeds being eaten by birds have now been transported alongside the road near the house and possibly elsewhere unbeknownst to us... just as they have brought to us numerous other plants such as the seven elder trees that we now maintain for wine and kombucha making along with pies, marmalade and syrups.

We still do germinate and sow some annual veggies, plus potatoes and squashes and tomatoes, but we have many, many volunteer plants that gives us a wonderful abundance. Sometimes if asked by my wife if we have any coriander, I'll respond...'yes, I saw some yesterday in 'aisle 3- between the yellow onions and the black mulberry' or wherever else I may have noticed a plant growing. It's just a new way of 'shopping' ....

Wish you the best....



Thank you for all the great information! I've heard about New Zealand spinach but I honestly wasn't sure if it would do well here or not. A lot of the examples of people growing it that I had seen were in warmer climates than here. Good to know that it could be grown here in western WA. I will have to give it a try too. I'm always up for trying new perennial veggies
 
Diane Kistner
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Daron Williams wrote:
I really hope it survives the winter. It has finally started to put on a bunch of growth and is doing great. I also tasted a leaf and I thought it was quite good--it would be great to have it growing up and over the top of the trellis.



I'm jealous! I think it's too hot here for Caucasian Mountain Spinach. It won't be the cold that kills it if it doesn't survive the winter.
 
Anne Pratt
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Okay, after multiple false starts I have sprouts. Their first tour in the fridge was apparently not wet enough. I planted them in seed starter, set them in a mushroom container and made everything quite wet. Covered with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. In a couple of weeks, I’ve produced the sprouts pictured. Sorry it’s sideways!

Now what?  I took off the plastic and took it out of the fridge. I kept it in the cool basement for a couple of days and now it’s on the porch. It needs to dry out some so I can tease these babies apart, a task I dread. The soil is still soggy, but it did get the job done!

My instructions say to keep the plants in gallon pots the first year, which is fine!  But I’m all concerned about the planting medium. I can’t get my head around planting in pure clay, as was recommended (see my precious post). Is there some way to create a mineral-rich medium that will drain?

Thanks everyone!
1DCD95EE-3EC4-4F8F-8BDC-85C92096DDAA.jpeg
Out of the fridge
Out of the fridge
 
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