Grow orach

Growing Orach – What You Need to Know

Have you heard of orach? This awesome annual vegetable is relatively unknown, but it’s an easy replacement for spinach that can handle the heat, and it isn’t bothered by pests. Interested in growing orach in your garden? Keep reading to find out all about this fantastic vegetable.

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Growing orach is really easy, and I’m surprised this vegetable isn’t more well-known. This post will cover what orach is and the reasons why you should grow it. It’ll also cover the basics of planting orach and how to add it to your garden.

By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to plant orach in your garden.

But don’t forget to grab your free, easy-to-print cheat-sheet that gives you the rundown on orach, plus a bonus list of other self-seeding vegetables that, along with orach, would make a great addition to any wild homesteader’s garden.

What is Orach? (And Why You Should Grow It)

Try growing orach

This is some green and dark red orach growing in one of my hedgerows in 2018. The hedgerow was new and the orach made a great year 1 privacy screen and wind block while the shrubs and trees were still small. Plus it was tasty!

Orach is an annual vegetable also known as mountain spinach. It lives up to its nickname. It tastes a lot like spinach, and it cooks up like spinach, too. But it’s much hardier and more resilient to heat than its celebrated counterpart, making it a lot easier to grow.

Orach grows straight and tall, with stalks towering up to 10 feet (3 meters)! But usually it only reaches about 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters).

Native to Europe and Asia, orach was widely cultivated around the Mediterranean region until the spinach came onto the scene and became more popular.

I like spinach as much as the next person, but orach has some major advantages. It handles heat much better than spinach, and unlike spinach, it retains its flavor even after it bolts. You can keep harvesting orach all summer long. (After a while, the older, larger leaves do get a bit tough for raw eating. But they’re still great in soups, curries, pastas, and other cooked meals.)

Orach is sometimes described as having a slightly salty taste. (Some people notice it more than others—I’ve never noticed it.) But otherwise, it’s an excellent alternative to spinach.

I love the colors of orach. It comes in a variety of colors. Dark red is most common, but it also comes in green, yellowish green, and a mix of all 3 colors.

I really like the look of orach in the garden. It adds a great splash of color.

In my own garden in western Washington, slugs and pill bugs can be an issue. But I’ve found that orach is rarely ever bothered by these pests. This makes it a great “green” to grow if you have wet springs that result in slug issues.

Benefits of Orach

Try growing orach in your garden! Here’s a summary of the great reasons to grow orach.

  • Heat tolerant alternative to spinach.
  • Relatively pest free (at least in western Washington).
  • Can be harvested all summer long even after bolting.
  • Can be eaten raw or cooked. Use it in any dish that calls for spinach.
  • Adds a splash of color to your garden.

Basics of Planting Orach

growing orach from seed

This was a volunteer orach that came up in my gravel parking lot mixed with grass. I transplanted it into my garden and it has been doing great! But I was very impressed how well it was doing in the hard compacted soil in the parking lot!

The best way to grow orach is from seed. In my own garden, orach seeds germinate very easily and quickly. Just follow the instructions on the seed packet, and you should be good to go.

The main thing you need to be careful about when growing orach is how big it gets. Orach doesn’t tend to fall over, since its central stem will get thick. It can easily shade out other vegetables, so make sure to plant it where its height won’t cause problems for your other plants.

Wild Tip

You can use the fact that orach grows so tall to your advantage. If you grow orach in small clusters, you can create semi-shady micro-climates where you can grow lettuce and other plants that don’t like the heat. A row of orach can also be used to provide late afternoon shade and block summer winds. Basically, a mini-hedgerow for your garden!

Orach also self-seeds very easily, and it may come up the next year in areas you don’t expect. (Its seeds have a small, paper-like disk that helps them blow in the wind.)

growing orach from collected seeds

This is a dry orach seed stalk that I collected. The seeds are in the small papery disks. Each plant produces a ton of seeds!

I’ve found that a layer of mulch will easily suppress any volunteer orach. Though if you plan for it, like you would with other self-seeding vegetables you could plant orach once and then never have to replant it! Just let the volunteers do the work.

If orach comes up in an area you don’t want it, you can let it grow for a bit and then harvest the whole plant.

If you harvest it while it’s still young, the central stem won’t be tough yet, and you can eat it along with the leaves.

You can also collect seeds at the end of the summer and plant them in the spring, like normal. If you buy seeds from the store, the paper like disk will be removed from the seeds. But I haven’t noticed this disk hindering germination, so don’t worry about removing it from the seeds you collect.

Places to Get Orach Seeds

Here are several places you can order orach seeds.

Harvesting and Using Orach

growing orach for food

Orach is a great vegetable for salad and other raw dishes but it is also good as a cooked green.

Harvesting orach is very simple. Just wait for the plant to get about 6 inches tall, and then you can start harvesting the leaves. Move from plant to plant so you don’t take off too many leaves from any one plant.

Your orach will continue to grow, and soon they’ll have dozens of large, colorful leaves coming off the central stem. New leaves will grow as you harvest the old ones.

As with any vegetable, it’s best to harvest in the morning or evening, and not in the heat of the day.

You can throw orach leaves in a salad to add a nice splash of color, or you can cook with them. Orach can be used for any recipe that calls for spinach, and it also works as an alternative to other greens like chard.

Get started With Orach

Getting started with growing orach

Orach is a great vegetable to grow in your garden or really anywhere on your homestead. Here it is growing in a hedgerow and it would be great in a food forest!

So, are you ready to start growing orach in your garden? Orach is an excellent, time-honored vegetable that would make a great addition to any wild homestead.

Orach stands up to pests, handles the heat, and produces a bountiful harvest. When you grow low-maintenance vegetables like this, you’re not only saving yourself time and energy—you’re making your homestead more resilient by working with nature.

Plus, since it’s a self-seeding vegetable, once you start growing orach, you’ll be set for years to come.

Before you go, don’t forget to grab your free, easy-to-print cheat-sheet that runs through the information here and gives you a bonus list of self-seeding vegetables that, along with orach, would be a great addition to any wild homesteader’s garden.


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, a lifelong gardener, and the founder of Wild Homesteading. He manages the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he applies restoration and sustainable gardening techniques on his family’s own wild homestead. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children. In addition, to running this site Daron manages the restoration program for a local non-profit and is a husband to an amazing wife who makes this site and the homestead possible and daddy to 2 perfect kids.

  • tim says:

    Daron, is it too late to plant right now? Orach in northern mexico near the coast?

    If so, please make some money on me: Give me a link I can order a variety, bc you said it comes in colors, and tell me to place my order.

    If I don’t trust you by now? you know? I have to drive 200 miles to pick it up, but hey: you help me, right.

    thanks! tim

    • Daron says:

      Hey Tim! I’m not sure–your climate is a lot different than mine but I think you could get it going. It might just need more water to get it established. But it might be better to wait until next year to give it a shot. There are some links in the post and the one I like to use is Wild Garden Seed or Baker Creek. But it looks like Baker Creek is out of stock at the moment.

      I don’t have any experience growing vegetables in your climate so I would say if it is too late to grow plants like Swiss chard then I would wait till next year to grow orach.

      Good luck!

  • tim says:

    How many colors and varieties are there for pretty coastal- about 1km inland? I would like to try them all.

    I contacted my friend in San Diego to try to get some seeds or seedlings, but I would be most grateful if it can be planted now- THANKS!!

    • Daron says:

      Hello, any of the colors that you can find from the stores should grow. If you let it self-seed you will get some mixes of the colors. Good luck!

  • Florian says:

    Sounds like a great candidate for my planned road facing hedgerow! Though I wonder how it will deal with a bit of frost and snow…

    • Daron says:

      It can take a little frost but it won’t overwinter. But since it self-seeds it should come back easily. I got some messages from people who just have it growing wild every year and never have to replant. Good luck!

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