Tree spinach (Chenopodium giganteum) is a rapidly spreading vegetable plant that can be prepared like spinach. This is how to properly plant and care for it.
Tree spinach (Chenopodium giganteum), also known as wild buckwheat, magenta spreen or giant lambsquarters, is a vegetable from the goosefoot subfamily (Chenopodiaceae). It is used as a leafy vegetable primarily in India, the Himalayas, and Nepal, where the plant is also native. Perennial buckwheat (Fagopyrum cymosum) is also sometimes called tree spinach.
Tree spinach is related to quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), the goosefoot native to South America, as well as to white goosefoot (Chenopodium album) and Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus). A distant relationship exists with spinach (Spinacia oleracea), which also belongs to the goosefoot subfamily.
Appearance and growth
Tree spinach is an annual herbaceous plant that grows between two and three meters (6 to 10 feet) tall and about two meters (6 feet) wide. It forms an erect shoot axis. The stem is green-reddish striped towards the fall. The leaves of the tree spinach, which initially have a bright magenta-red color when they emerge, are triangular, red-stemmed, slightly toothed on the edge, later dark green and mealy-pollinated on top. They grow to about 20 cm (8 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) wide.
The small white flowers appear from July to September. The plant is pollinated by wind, but seeds come to maturity only in very mild climates. They are lenticular reddish-black small seeds.
Location and soil
Tree spinach thrives in loose, nutrient-rich soil that is warm in summer in sunny to semi-shady locations. Alternatively, you can cultivate the tree spinach as a decorative useful plant in a large tub with a sufficient drainage layer.
Crop rotation and mixed cultivation
Chenopodium giganteum is suitable as an intercrop for lettuce or cabbage, as well as a specimen plant between perennials.
Sowing tree spinach
You can sow tree spinach in rows with a spacing of 40 cm (16 in) in the field from April onwards. Pre-cultivation in pots is possible from March. Ideally, the soil should be enriched with a little mature compost.
Care of tree spinach
If you want to prevent the tree spinach abundant self-seeding, you should remove the inflorescences in time. Otherwise, the plant, which copes well with prolonged periods of drought, does not require further care. However, the more nutrients and water available, the larger the tree spinach will grow.
Harvest and use of tree spinach
The young, tender leaves and shoot tips of can be harvested continuously. These can be steamed, cooked or boiled like spinach, seasoned with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and prepared as a soup, a casserole or a vegetable side dish. You should rather eat the slightly bitter-sour tasting leaves of the tree spinach raw only in small measure. This is because the plant contains both oxalic acid and saponins (soap substances), larger quantities of which can irritate the stomach. Ripe seeds can also be ground into flour and used as a spice for Indian dishes.
When harvesting, you should thin out the tree spinach vigorously so that only about four plants remain in the fall, either for seed collection or self-seeding.
Propagation of tree spinach
The best way to propagate tree spinach is by sowing seeds. However, since the large vegetable plant also easily self-seeds in summer-warm locations, additional propagation is usually not necessary.
Diseases and pests
Fast-spreading and easy to care for, tree spinach is extremely hardy to plant diseases and pests.