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LEAF VEGETABLES

the rubra species, while the green form is classified in the alba species. Basella alba has an African or Southeast Asian origin, while Basella rubra is thought to have originated in India or Indonesia. Malabar is not a true spinach, but its leaves, which form on a vine, resemble spinach and are used in the same way. Malabar spinach can be grown from seeds or cuttings. The vine is normally trellised. Two vines are sufficient to supply a small family all sum- mer and fall. The thick, fleshy leaves are cut off together with some length of the stem to keep the plant pruned to a desired shape. When cooked, Malabar spinach is not as slick in texture as many greens such as spinach. The Bengalis cook it with chopped onions, spicy chilis, and a little mustard oil. The mucilaginous texture is especially useful as a thickener in soups and stews.

Mizuna (Brassica juncea var. japonica) is an Oriental cooking green also known as potherb mustard, kyona, Japanese greens, and sometimes California peppergrass. It is widely grown in Japan but is found only occasion- ally in gardens in the United States. Mizuna is twelve to eighteen inches tall with yellow-green leaves that are smooth and a bit fuzzy, similar to curly mustard, but with a different leaf shape. Leaves of mizuna are deeply notched, narrow, feathery, and quite attractive. A single plant may have as many as 180 leaves clustered together in a compact, twelve-inch diameter bunch. It withstands frost and light freezes and is not quick to seed even in periods of warm weather that occur during the winter months. Leaves are ready for use any time after three weeks of growth. Leaves are removed as needed, keep- ing enough young foliage to continue the regrowth.

New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa) is indige- nous to New Zealand and became widely cultivated af- ter it was introduced to Europe. It was introduced to England by Captain Cook in 1771 and was used on his voyages as a source of vitamin C. Presently, little is grown commercially in the United States, but it is popular with many home gardeners. Not a true spinach, it does some- what resemble spinach in appearance and is used simi- larly. The plant is large, growing to a height of two or more feet in a spreading and branching habit of growth, and has thick succulent leaves. The young tops are har- vested for boiling, and each harvest encourages new branching. Unlike many of the leaf vegetables, New Zealand spinach is a warm-season crop with very wide adaptation. It is an excellent source of fresh greens throughout the summer and is also frost-sensitive. Its fla- vor is comparable to that of spinach, but milder and with- out the astringency. In its early growth, New Zealand spinach is entirely vegetative. As it begins to develop, however, it soon produces flowers from the leaf axils. The flowers are considered undesirable for the market. Like spinach, tissues contain oxalates that render calcium nu- tritionally unavailable.

Orach (Atriplex hortensis) is a hardy branching mo- noecious annual of the Chenopodiaceae family that is a substitute for spinach. It is also commonly known as

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

mountain spinach, French spinach, and sea purslane. Some variations of the name are orache, arache, and or- age. The name derives from the Old French arrache, a corruption of the Vulgar Latin atripica, from Latin atriplex; these in turn were from the Greek word for orach, atraphaxus. It is sometimes called salt bush because of its tolerance of alkaline soils. The plants have a toler- ance to drought and salinity and are adapted to a broad temperature range. Orach is considered to have origi- nated in northern India and has been used as a medici- nal and food plant for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest cultivated plants. It was widely grown until the eighteenth century but is of little commercial importance today although it is returning in popularity as an ingredient in mesclun salads. It is grown as a sub- stitute for spinach in Europe and in the northern plains of the United States. It is seldom seen in the tropics. Its leaves are slightly crimped, soft, and pliable and are shaped like arrows that are four to five inches long and two to three inches wide. Plants can attain a height of five to six feet. A rosette of leaves first develops, followed by a seed stalk that can grow to a height of six to nine feet. There are four common varieties of orach. White orach is most often grown because it is the most tender and best flavored. The leaves are very pale green, almost yellow. Red orach has dark-red stems and leaves. Green orach, also called Lee’s Giant orach, is very vigorous, with a stout, angular, branching stem. The leaves are rounder, less toothed, and darker green than those of the other va- rieties. The fourth is a copper-colored variety that is now much sought after by specialty growers.

Orach is a cool-season vegetable and is grown much like garden spinach. It is quick to bolt in summer. Al- though stems quickly elongate, flowering is slow, and plants tolerate growing temperatures too high for spinach. Young leaves may be harvested and the plants will continue growing for multiple harvests. Orach has a mild flavor much like that of spinach, but it contains less oxalic acid. Even when the plant goes to seed, young leaves are usable. However, old leaves are not palatable and are not harvested.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a native plant throughout eastern North America. Other common names are inkberry, pigeon berry, coakun, pocan bush, scoke, garget, and poke salad. The branches bear clusters of flowers and dark red fruits that resemble the berries of a nightshade; pokeweed is therefore sometimes called American nightshade. It is a large-rooted perennial with a strong-growing tip, reaching up to ten or more feet in height. The top dies down in cold weather. There is lit- tle cultivation of pokeweed in the United States or else- where because it is gathered from the wild. All plant parts are poisonous. The young tender shoots and the older leaves may be eaten if boiled. The bitterness, and by as- sociation the poisonous compound, is removed by boil- ing and pouring off the cooking water until all the bitterness is removed.

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