By: Amy Grant
If you love spinach but the plant tends to bolt quickly in your region, try growing orach plants. What is orach? Keep reading to find out how to grow orach and other orach plant info and care.
What is Orach?
A cool season plant, orach is a warm season alternative to spinach that is less likely to bolt. A member of the Chenopodiaceae family, orach (Atriplex hortensis) is also known as Garden Orache, Red Orach, Mountain Spinach, French Spinach and Sea Purslane. It is also sometimes referred to as Salt Bush due to its tolerance for alkaline and saline soils. The name orach is derived from the Latin ‘aurago’ meaning golden herb.
A native of Europe and Siberia, orach is possibly one of the more ancient cultivated plants. It is grown in Europe and the northern plains of the United States as a substitute for spinach either fresh or cooked. The flavor is reminiscent of spinach and is often combined with sorrel leaves. The seeds are also edible and a source of vitamin A. They are ground into a meal and mixed with flour for making breads. Seeds are also used to make a blue dye.
Additional Orach Plant Info
An annual herb, orach comes in four common varieties, with white orach being the most common.
- White orach has more pale green to yellow leaves rather than white.
- There is also red orach with dark red stems and leaves. A beautiful, edible, ornamental red orach is Red Plume, which can attain heights of between 4-6 feet (1-1.8 m.).
- Green orach, or Lee’s Giant orach, is a vigorous varietal with an angular branching habit and rounder leaves of dark green.
- Less commonly grown is a copper colored orach variety.
On the most commonly grown white orach, leaves are arrow shaped, soft and pliable with slight serration and are 4-5 inches (10-12.7 cm.) long by 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm.) across. Growing white orach plants attain a height of between 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m.) accompanied by a seed stalk that can reach up to 8 feet (2.4 m.) in height. The blossoms have no petals and are small, green or red depending upon the cultivar grown. A wealth of flowers appears at the top of the plant. The seeds are small, flat and russet in hue surrounded by a light yellow, leaf-like casing.
How to Grow Orach
Orach is grown much like spinach in USDA zones 4-8. Seeds should be sown in full sun to part shade about 2-3 weeks after the last frost for your area. Sow seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep spaced 2 inches apart in rows a foot to 18 inches apart. With germination temps of between 50-65 degrees F. (10 to 18 C.), seeds should sprout within 7-14 days. Thin the seedlings to 6-12 inches in the row. The thinnings can be eaten, tossed into salads much as any other baby green.
Thereafter, there is little special orach care except to keep the plants moist. Although orach is drought tolerant, the leaves will have better flavor if kept irrigated. This delicious plant tolerates both alkaline soil and salt, and is frost tolerant as well. Orach does beautifully as a container planting too.
Harvest the tender leaves and stems when plants are 4-6 inches (10-15 cm.) in height, about 40-60 days after sowing. Continue to harvest the young leaves as they mature, leaving the older leaves on the plant. Pinch flower buds to encourage branching and continued production of new leaves. Successive plantings can be made until the weather warms and, in cooler climates, mid-summer plantings can be made for a fall harvest.
This article was last updated on
Growing Orach French Mountain Spinach
Most of its common names, from Red Orach Spinach to Orach Mountain Spinach to French Spinach, suggest that orach is a type of spinach. While the taste is pretty similar, orach and spinach are cousins, rather than siblings, each a member of a different subfamily within the family Amaranthaceae.
The biggest difference between the two is heat tolerance. While spinach is famous for bolting at the first sign of hot weather, orach can be planted just as early in the spring and will grow well into the summer. Another very notable difference is color. Orach comes in a few varieties, and all are striking.
Regular old green is a solid choice, of course, and another white variety is prized for its flavor. The most striking by far, however, is red orach, with vibrant crimson stems and leaves that make it ideal for ornamental gardens.
Sow your seeds directly into the ground 2-3 weeks before the last frost. Plant them 2 inches apart and harvest young plants as a cut and come again crop when they reach 6 inches in height, or thin them at this point to every 6-18 inches to allow the plants to mature and harvest the older leaves to make way for new growth.
3. Help the bees
Hand pollination isn’t required, but if you are finding that female fruits are withering and not getting pollinated, give Mother Nature a hand. To hand-pollinate, transfer pollen from the male stamen to the female pistil.
Female squash that were not pollinated
- best done early in the morning
- remove the male blossom, pick off or pull back the petals and rub the stamen against the pistil of the other flower.
- alternatively, use a cotton swab to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female flower.
Harvesting, Storing and Using Mint
Mint is best harvested early in the morning when the leaves have the highest amount of oils in them and will be most flavorful. Younger leaves are more tender and have better flavor.
Use sharp scissors to cut off leaves or stems off growing mint. Do not harvest more than one-third of the plant and only take deep cuttings once per month during the growing season.
You can store it in the refrigerator with the cut ends in water or wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel. Freeze the leaves by placing them in water in ice cube trays.
Mint should be a staple in any kitchen. Throw a few sprigs in your salad for a sweet zest. Mint goes especially well with roasted fish and lamb dishes.
We often think of tea when we think of using mint in drinks, but it also pairs nicely with many other types of liquids. Lemonade and fruit punch get an extra sparkle with a few mint leaves. And if you are a Kentucky girl like me, spring means mint juleps.
If you can’t use up all your mint, try making mint jelly. It’s a forgotten favorite that adds a special flavor to winter dishes. If you haven’t tried candied mint leaves on your desserts, make it a priority.
Mint as Medicine
Mint has several well-known medicinal properties. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and viruses in the body. It also relieves gas and indigestion. One of the quickest and easiest ways to benefit from mint’s healing properties is to have it as a glass of tea.
Use 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in a tea strainer. Seep for about 10 minutes to get the full benefits. Perfect on those days your digestive system is rumbling and turned around. Mint is also a great natural relief for morning sickness.
I think mint tea does wonders for a stuffy nose. On those days I wake up congested I reach for the tea leaves. It always helps clear my head and gets me going.
Mint has the reputation of repelling many pests including mice, cockroaches, deer, and ants. It contains pulegone, an ingredient in many natural insect repellents.
I can’t imagine my garden without mint in it. I have several growing mint varieties throughout my yard, one of them in a shady area by my house. In the hot days of summer, I sometimes curl up in a chair nearby with a good book. The smell from the mint is refreshing. Where do you plan on putting yours?