Popeye the Sailor Man advocated the consumption of spinach to aid in the growth of one’s muscles and the development of strength. Created in 1929 by Elzie Crisler Segar, Popeye was a fictional character that became stronger after consuming this leafy green. Although certainly he was onto something, as spinach is fantastically rich in Vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, and calcium, its’ heirloom “cousin” is not to be overlooked. Aside from tyee spinach and the occasional Bordeaux spinach, our Spinach Mix at Aspen Moon Farm includes the nutritious orach. Commonly referred to as mountain spinach, orach is a member of the spinach family, Chenopodiaceae. Native to Western Asia and the Mediterranean, this ancient crop was introduced in the mid-1500s to English gardens; however, it is only in the fairly recent past that farmers and chefs have rediscovered this uniquely flavored (and once-popular) leafy vegetable.
Striking in color, at Aspen Moon, we grow magenta-colored orach, as well as a chartreuse shade of orach. The hue of the leaves is eye-catching and the taste is distinctive. The minerals from the soil are stored in the leaves of this plant resulting in a slightly salty tasting leaf, hence its’ other nickname of saltbush. This being said, the plant can tolerate more alkaline and salty soils and enjoys full sun. While not as quick to bolt as spinach, orach does appreciate the cooler spring and fall periods of the growing season and will withstand moderate frost. Conversely, it exhibits some tolerance to heat and drought. The plant itself will grow to be quite tall, between 4-6 feet, and in many societies it is prized as an ornamental vegetable. We harvest our orach at Aspen Moon leaf by leaf, by first pinching off its’ flowering bud to encourage branching and more vegetative growth. The plants will be productive for weeks following this initial harvest.
Because of its’ attractive appearance, I like to use our orach fresh in salads. However, it can be substituted for spinach in just about any recipe. Alternatively, the flavor and meaty, somewhat buttery texture, resembles that of swiss chard. Whatever the case, and however you cook your orach, remember that its’ red leaves will tint any dish fuchsia. Here is, perhaps, my favorite way to enjoy our spinach mix:
Aspen Moon Farm spinach mix
Fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼ inch thick wheels
Onion, sliced thin
1) Assemble ingredients and enjoy fresh.
Also included in this week’s CSA share is:
Dill or cilantro
Japanese salad turnips or radish
Leafy greens (swiss chard, kale, collard greens, or mustard greens)
Sugar snap peas
Snow peas, English sweet peas, or green peppers
Depending on CSA pick-up location, each share will be slightly different.