Hablitzia Tamnoides: An Up-and-Coming Permaculture Plant

This perennial vegetable is so unknown that it doesn’t even have an agreed upon common name yet, but it could be the next big thing in forest gardening. Most English speakers simply call it by its scientific name Hablitzia tamnoides, but it is also known as Caucasian Spinach because it originated in the Caucasus, a region at the boarder of Europe and Asia, and it has leaves that can be used like spinach. Although it is in the family Amaranthaceae which contains common vegetables such as beets and amaranth, very little is known about hablitzia because it is the only species in its genus.  In the past five years it has caught the eye of many permaculturists and perennial growers who have a mission to steward this plant and make it a household name. With its vivacious growth pattern and tasty leaves and stalks, it’s not hard to see why. Hablitzia is capable of being the next asparagus- a versatile perennial vegetable with great potential market value and an obvious place in a forest garden. It is especially well suited for our climate, although it has almost never been grown in the United States. It is a hardy plant that prefers to germinate in cold temperatures and can survive hard frost. It thrives in less than optimal soils without much sunlight. In short, it is about the least picky plant around! This season the UMass Permaculture Initiative will join the effort to research this plant by starting 100 seeds of it and planting some in every one of our on-campus gardens. So be sure look out for this vining wonder as the days get hotter, it certainly is hard to miss!

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Lily Israel
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