Common names: Warrigal Greens
Taxonomic name: Tetragonia tetragonioides
Area of origin: Australia and New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Japan
Flowering Time: Spring and Summer
Uses: Ground cover, food, anti-inflammatory
Warnings: Contains Oxalic acid, so blanch it and throw the water out at least once before eating.
It was a bit hard to work out where to put Warrigal Greens in this blog. It’s recognised as a bushfood, but doesn’t grow locally. Originally, it hails from Japan, so it’s not really a ‘native’ Australian plant. However, it grows very well in our garden and is often sold as ‘bushtucker’, so I’ll cautiously slide it in here.
Warrigal Greens (is one plant a ‘Warrigal Green’?) is a trailing succulent with thick, fleshy, triangular green leaves that are covered with lots of little bumps. These are little modified hairs that act as salt bladders and are how the plant survives in a salty environment as they sequester the salt away from the main part of the leaf. It’s a prolific seeder and the 10 sided seeds (that’s where the ‘Tetragonia’ in its botanic name comes from) turn woody as they dry.
Tiny, pale yellow/green flowers show in the leaf axils in the warmer weather through to the end of Autumn down this way. They have or 5 petals.
One story has that the name ‘Warrigal’ came from the locals who encountered Cook in the early days of the invasion. In the Dharug language, it means, simply ‘wild’. It’s also a Wiradjuri word for ‘dog’ as the seeds look kind of like puppies heads.
It’s a tasty green vegetable that we use as a Spinach substitute. Be careful though, Warrigal Greens are reputed to have a fairly high level of Oxalic acid, but discard the water you cooked it in and you should be alright. As with most of the Aizoaceae Family, Warrigal Greens have a soothing effect when crushed and applied directly to irritated skin. They have been found to reduce obesity in mice when fed to them in lab tests.
As you may be able to tell from the genus name ‘Tetragonia‘, Warrigals are related to two local bushfood plants, ‘Bower and Sea Spinaches‘.