AskDefine | Define orache

Dictionary Definition

orache n : any of various herbaceous plants of the genus Atriplex that thrive in deserts and salt marshes [syn: orach]

User Contributed Dictionary



Anglo-Norman arace, arache; apparently an irregular derivation from Old French arepe, from classical Latin atriplex, from Greek ατράφαξυς, of unknown origin (probably a loan-word).


  1. Any of various edible plants of the genus Atriplex, especially A. hortensis or A. patula.

Extensive Definition

Atriplex (Á-tri-plex) is a plant genus of 100-200 species, known by the common names of saltbush and orache (or orach). The genus is quite variable and widely distributed. It includes many desert and seashore plants and halophytes, as well as plants of moist environments. The goosefoot subfamily (Chenopodioideae) of the Amaranthaceae, in which the genus Atriplex is placed in the APG II system, was formerly considered a distinct family (Chenopodiaceae).
Saltbushes are extremely tolerant of salt content in the ground: their name derives from the fact that they retain salt in their leaves, which makes them of great use in areas affected by soil salination.
Atriplex species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species; see the list of Lepidoptera which feed on Atriplex. For spiders such as Phidippus californicus and other arthropods, saltbush plants offer opportunities to hide and hunt in habitat that is otherwise often quite barren.

Use by humans

Many species are edible. However, the favored species for human consumption is Garden Orache (A. hortensis). Use of Atriplex as food is known since at least the late Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic). The Ertebølle culture presumably used Common Orache (A. patula) as a vegetable (A. patula is attested as an archaeophyte in northern Europe). In the biblical Book of Job, mallûḥa (מַלּ֣וּחַ, probably Mediterranean Saltbush, A. halimus, the major culinary saltbush in the region) is mentioned as food eaten by social outcasts (Bible verse |Job|30:4|31). Grey Saltbush (A. cinerea) is used as bushfood in Australia since prehistoric times. Chamiso (A. canescens) and Shadscale (A. confertifolia) were eaten by Native Americans, and Spearscale (A. hastata) was a food in rural Eurasia. The Garden Orache (A. hortensis), also called Red Orach, Mountain Spinach or French Spinach, is an annual leaf vegetable with a salty, spinach-like taste. The plant grows 1-2 m (3-6 ft) in height and the leaves are used cooked or in salads. It was commonly grown in Mediterranean regions from early times until spinach became the more favored leaf vegetable. The leaves can come in red, white and green varieties. The green leaves were once used to color pasta in Italy. Another common use of orach is to balance out the acidic flavor of sorrel.
Meat from sheep which have grazed on saltbush has surprisingly high levels of vitamin E, is leaner and more hydrated than regular lamb and has consumer appeal equal to grain-fed lamb. The vitamin E levels could have animal health benefits while extending the shelf-life and maintaining the fresh red colour of saltbush lamb. This effect has been demonstrated for Old Man Saltbush (A. nummularia) and River Saltbush (A. amnicola). For reasons unknown, sheep seem to prefer the more fibrous, less nutritious River Saltbush.
Saltbushes are also used as an ornamental plant in landscaping and can be used to prevent soil erosion in coastal areas.

Selected species

Halimione portulacoides (Sea-purslane) and H. pedunculata (Pedunculate Sea-purslane) were formerly placed in Atriplex too. A. alba and A. viridis' are synonyms of Chenopodium album (White Goosefoot).


External links and References

  • (1999): Orach. In: Oxford Companion to Food'': 556. ISBN 0-19-211579-0
  • Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico ISBN 0-89672-614-2
  • (2004): Saltbush lifts sheep meat vitamin content. Farming Ahead 153(October): 63. PDF fulltext
  • (2004): Variation within and between two saltbush species in plant composition and subsequent selection by sheep. Aust. J. Agr. Res. 55(9): 999–1007. (HTML abstract)
orache in Arabic: قطف
orache in Danish: Mælde
orache in German: Melden
orache in Hebrew: מלוח (צמח)
orache in Spanish: Atriplex
orache in Persian: اسفناج باغی
orache in French: Atriplex
orache in Upper Sorbian: Błyšćata łoboda
orache in Italian: Atriplex
orache in Georgian: თათაბო
orache in Lithuanian: Balandūnė
orache in Dutch: Melde
orache in Polish: Łoboda (roślina)
orache in Portuguese: Atriplex
orache in Russian: Лебеда
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