Veggie of the Week - New Zealand Spinach
sponsored by Coleman Farms
You don't want to confuse Australians with New Zealanders, but it's o.k. to treat New Zealand spinach like the ordinary stuff, even though they're much more distantly related - different families - than any two Antipodeans.
New Zealand Spinach is a halophyte, that is, it tolerates relatively high levels of salinity, and is also somewhat tolerant of drought. A related adaptation is the succulent-like leaf, relatively thick and slightly mucilaginous. These two properties make it less suitable - even unsuitable - for using raw (in salads, for example), but otherwise it is culinarily interchangeable with common Spinach. This means you can boil, steam or stirr fry it, with minor changes in cooking times, and use it in soups or whatever the same as normal Spinach. A look at the nutritiondata.com graphs seems to indicate that they're nutritionally pretty much equivalent, too.
One difference, which you may notice in the flavor, is that New Zealand Spinach seems to have a much lower level of oxalic acid. This will have practical and nutritional effects. Practically, the lower oxalic acid level will result in a less sour or tangy flavor. If this is an important property to have, as in soups or dips, then a bit of lemon juice will do the trick. Nutritionally, the lower oxalic acid level would result in better assimilation of calcium and iron, which occur in high levels.
I've given a conditional discussion of this because there's some disagreement on the Web about oxalate levels in various vegetables, among them New Zealand Spinach. My own quick critique of the various web pages leads me to suspect that those suggesting high levels may be considering New Zealand Spinach to be a true spinach (there is similar disagreement on heat tolerance), and also that acid levels may be dependent on growing conditions. My own experience eating New Zealand Spinach suggests it has much lower oxalic acid levels than, say Chard, which is normally ranked together with common spinach.