The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Orach – a very useful cut and come again veg for a limited space

Orach - green and purple

Orach - green and purple

I invested in orach last year – supplied by The Real Seed Company. The young leaves can be eaten in a salad and the older leaves are a great alternative to spinach. As long as you do not let it go to seed – the buds are delicious steamed – this will produce for you until the first frosts. The final height is about a meter high. Beautiful and tasty – what more could you want from a leafy vegetable?

I was planning to save the seed last year but just didn’t get around to it. The seed heads stayed on the plants all through the cold and frosty winter. They were pretty but made me feel so guilty each time that I passed the skeleton rows.

This spring, I reckoned that the cold would have killed the seed so ordered some green and gold orach again this year. I really regretted not ordering the purple variety too – I’d invested in quite a few new (to me) exciting seeds and roots this year so the purpulish/red orach was the fall guy.

Imagine my delight when I was digging over the border and I found quite a few purple orach seedlings. Now, several weeks later they are popping up all over the place. Purple and now green, When they are large enough to travel they will be transported to the orach section of the border. I’m thrilled to have the purple orach after all.

This is not a perennial veg but it clearly self seeds happily. The stalks and leaves are quite svelte so a row doesn’t need a lot of space to flourish.

And the taste? Good! Well worth growing. Much easier and more adaptable than spinach. Decorative too. In fact it would look good dotted about in a herbaceous border. Possibly the leaf amaranths could join them too. The amaranths are a new venture for this year – they are still tiny and lurking in the solar tunnel. Can’t wait to taste them.

A modern and edible bouquet anyone?

  Leave a reply


  1. Hugh Baker

    The secret with growing it is to sow/ broadcast seed in autumn – It works reliably this way, because it needs to be damp and spells of cold weather to break its dormancy

  2. Robert

    Can you advise how long it took your orach to germinate? I planted some two weeks back and there is no sign of life yet, though the amaranth is going great guns already.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Robert

      Like you – seeds planted this year have been slow to germinate – just the odd one here or there. But the self seeded ones from last year are everywhere! Be patient, they will come through and if you leave the seedheads you will have them forever.

      BTW the self seeded plantlets transplant well.

  3. Ellie

    What wonderful ideas! Has anyone tried growing orach in a container? We’ve just got an apartment balcony.

  4. Juanita

    “A modern and edible bouquet anyone?”

    Have you watched “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep? She liked using greens from her gardens as bouquets for her table.

    I like the simplicity of that.

  5. Maria

    Hi Fiona,
    I’m very glad to hear this! as I too have bought orach seed from the lovely people at Real Seeds this year. I (typically) bought far more seeds than I will be able to plant out in my tiny London back-garden, but that’s par for the course in enthusiastic gardening, right??

  6. Mine hasn’t come through, yet. Must try again….

  7. I bought some of this last week – can’t wait to plant it now.

  8. Ooooh, I’ll have to try this!

  9. Hazel

    I was tempted by orach- I want some edible plants that I can grow in my front garden without it looking like an allotment.

    I love the Real Seed Company too- I’ve bought from them for the first time this year and I’ve been very impressed.

  10. I am growing orach for the first time this year – only purple, I think. The seedlings are coming up nicely; they may need moving somewhere they can spread out a bit. I will seed about letting some self-seed 🙂

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