Life cycle: Annual / Ease of propagation: Easy / Hardiness zone: 5-9
Orach (pronounced or-ack) is one of our most favorite spring greens! In terms of texture and flavor it is quite mild and soft and so, while Orach is unique in its own right, it can be compared to Spinach. I personally much prefer Orach to spinach. It is much easier to cultivate, gives more height, color and texture to the garden and when eaten raw does not leave my teeth feeling weird! While Orach comes in green, yellow and purple colors we are offering a Purple variety. All Orachs are beautiful but I prefer purple because it is easier to see when I am weeding around my Orach and I love seeing the purple highlights in my garden that start small and end up over 6 feet tall!
Its beauty alone is enough reason to add Orach to your garden, but there are many more. Orach is an abundant seed producer once the season warms up. Unlike lettuce and many other types of greens, Orach seems slower to bolt and once it does start bolting the whole process is rather gradual, all the while providing ample leaves. Once seeds are formed they hang in clusters/spikes from all of the upper branches. Seeds are encapsulated in papery bracts that are also purple before they dry out and are extremely ornamental. We harvest the immature seed stalks of the plant and hang them up to dry to use in dried floral arrangements and wreaths.
The birds absolutely love Orach seeds and with more than a few Orach plants there is always enough to go around. They will scatter seeds and because Orach reseeds itself so easily, once you have a few plants established in your garden, you are almost guaranteed to have Orach from there on out in future seasons. We can also eat the Orach seeds. Interestingly the bracts when still succulent are slightly saline in flavor.
Actually Orach produces two types of seeds. The aforementioned and also smaller black seeds that are naked (no bracts) and often infertile. Needless to say we are not including the infertile seeds in our offering. We winnowed those off and are using them in our kitchen for granola and other culinary projects.
Apparently Orach seeds produce a blue natural dye! We have to try this!
Although it is an annual I consider Orach a permaculture plant because it perennializes very easily through its vigorous reseeding. Orach produces a large amount of biomass that can be used for mulch, compost, fodder or left standing in the garden so that birds can have food in the winter. Orach’s beauty is priceless! My friends took their massive surplus to the farmers market one spring and made a few hundred dollars easily just from Orach that had reseeded itself naturally from the previous year – they did not even plan to plant it as a crop and it became a cash crop!
One of my favorite ways to eat Orach is in Saag, an Indian curried version of creamed spinach. I sometimes combine the Orach with other greens like mustard, kale or bok choi. But alone, creamed Orach’s texture is impressive; it is very soft and smooth. Throw in some fried Paneer (cheese) to contrast the texture and call it a meal!
Direct sow seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in late winter / early spring (or late summer for fall crop) and keep soil moist until germination occurs.
Orach Seeds are available in our store on Homesteaders Co-op. We accept USD, STEEM and SBD.
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