The horned tetragon (Tetragonia tetragonioides) belongs to the family of Aizoaceae. It owes its name to the small points or horns with which its fruits are provided, capsules. This herbaceous plant is a forgotten vegetable many nutritional benefits since it is, among other things, well supplied with vitamins, minerals, fiber and is low in calories. It is eaten raw or cooked. In terms of taste, it is slightly iodized but its flavor is reminiscent of spinach, which is why it is also called New Zealand spinach or summer spinach. But these plants are botanically different. Anyway, the horned tetragone deserves its place in the vegetable garden, especially since it is easy to cultivate. This is what we will see together.
Plant the horned tetragon
We can sow the horned tetragon from the month of May, or even from April if you live in the south of France. The earth must be sufficiently warmed by the sun and it is essential that the risks of late frosts are completely eliminated. In a harsh climate, it is wiser to wait until June.
The germination temperature being between 20 and 30°C, it is necessary to soak the seeds in lukewarm water 24 hours before sowing. Then just:
- Hoe the garden soil to loosen it and take the opportunity to remove stones and weed roots,
- To enrich the soil with a organic material moderately acidic, mature compost type, at the rate of two shovelfuls per square meter,
- To lighten the earth with a little sand,
- To form furrows spaced more or less 1 meter from each other,
- to sow in little bits 4 seeds, these pockets must be at least 80 cm apart from each other,
- Cover the seeds with 3 cm of soil,
- To water in rain.
This plant is chilly. In regions where spring is slow to set in, it is therefore preferable to sow New Zealand Spinach under chassis because to allow it to germinate, it is necessary that the ambient temperature is at least 15°C. Of course, you can opt for sowing in pots. In this case, place 3 seeds of horned tetragonum per bucket, which are then placed in a good place in the shelter and in the light.
Ten to fifteen days after sowing, the cotyledons begin to germinate. As soon as they count four leaves, we proceed tothinning in order to keep only one very vigorous plan per pocket or bucket.
Cultivating the horned tetragon
The Tétragone needs a sunny exposure and sheltered from drafts. She likes them light, loose, humus-rich, cool and well-drained soils. Sufficient space must be reserved for it and the plants should therefore be well spaced. You might as well give it a very specific area of the garden because it risks suffocating plants that are too close.
Attention, the horned tetragon very difficult to tolerate transplanting. This is why it is highly recommended to use biodegradable cups which is placed directly in the ground, in holes of the same size as the pots, respecting a spacing of at least 80 cm in all directions. If this type of container is not available, care should be taken to remove the whole clod because the transplanting of a bare-rooted horned tetragon is doomed to failure.
Caring for a Horned Newborn
Undemanding, summer spinach can be grown by novice gardeners.
The horned tetragon needsmoderate watering but frequent. The soil should always be cool but not soggy. Although it tolerates drought very well, it is tastier if it has benefited from regular watering. in dry weather. In any case, it must be watered sufficiently at the beginning to encourage its rooting.
Once they are well rooted, you can put a mulch at the foot of the tetragons so that the soil stays cool. It’s a good solution to save water. You also save time, especially since mulching also limits the development of unwanted weeds. Hoeing sessions are therefore fewer.
Pinch and cut
It is during the summer that theend of rods New Zealand Spinach can be pinched to force branching. This simple little gesture is very useful to be able to enjoy an even more abundant harvest afterwards.
In addition, it should remove flower stalks as soon as they appear if you want to avoid bolting.
Pests and diseases
At least the gardener can rest assured since the Horned Tetragon is not attacked by any pest and is not susceptible to any disease. You just have to beware of slugs and snails who appreciate its tender and fleshy young leaves.
Harvest Horned Newborn
New Zealand Spinach is very productive. The harvest begins when the stems measure between 20 and 25 cm, ie a few weeks after germination, that is to say from summer and until the arrival of the first frosts.
We do not eat its stems. It’s necessary pick only the leaves, one by one and not by handfuls. It is mainly the young leaves that are eaten raw. The older ones are preferably reserved for cooking. But young or not, the horned tetragon leaves must be harvested As things progress, depending on the needs, then eaten immediately after picking because they fade very quickly. It is undoubtedly because of the preservation difficulties that one rarely finds Tétragone leaves on the markets.
Once the seedlings of New Zealand spinach are successful, the harvests follow one another year after year without it being necessary to intervene since this plant reseeds itself spontaneously. For this, it is not necessary to remove all its floral stems of course. In a small garden, it is essential to control it somewhat because it shows itself quickly invasive. So there is no need to sow hundreds of seeds because the needs of a family of four are largely met with only three plants.
Photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr