Atriplex halimus (known also by its common names: Mediterranean saltbush, sea orache, shrubby orache, silvery orache; //; also spelled orach) is a species of fodder shrub in the family Amaranthaceae, which is native to Europe and Northern Africa, including the Sahara in Morocco.
This plant is often cultivated as forage due to its tolerance for severe conditions of drought, and it can grow easily in very alkaline and saline soils. In addition, it is useful to valorize degraded and marginal areas because it will contribute to the improvement of phytomass in this case.
It is a dietary staple for the sand rat (Psammomys obesus).
The species has potential use in agriculture. A study allowed sheep and goats to voluntarily feed on A. halimus and aimed to determine if the saltbush was palatable, and if so, did it provide enough nutrients to supplement the diet of these animals. In this study they determined when goats and sheep are given as much A. halimus as they like, they do obtain enough nutrients to supplement their diet – unless the animal requirements are higher during pregnancy and milk production.
Extracts from the leaves have shown to have significant hypoglycemic effects.
Use in antiquity
According to Jewish tradition, the leaves of Atriplex halimus (orache), known in Mishnaic Hebrew as leʻūnīn (Hebrew: לעונין), and in biblical Hebrew (see: Job 30:4) as maluaḥ (Hebrew: מלוח), is said to be the plant gathered and eaten by the poor people who returned out of exile (in circa 352 BCE) to build the Second Temple. Maimonides, in his commentary on Mishnah Kilaim 1:3, as also Ishtori Haparchi in his seminal work, Kaftor u'ferach, both mention the leʻūnīn by its Arabic name, al-qaṭaf, a plant so-named to this very day. In the Mishnah (ibid.) we are told that the laws prohibiting the growing of diverse kinds in the same garden furrow do not apply to beets and to orache (Atriplex spp.) that are grown together, although dissimilar. The Greek comic poet Antiphanes (4th century BCE) seemingly calls it halimon and referring to foraging for it in dry torrent beds (fr. 158 Kassel–Austin).
- "orache". Oxford English Dictionary third edition. Oxford University Press. June 2004. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- Valderrabano, J., Munoz, F., Delgado, I. (1996). "Browsing ability and utilisation by sheep and goats of Atriplex hamilus L. shrubs". Small Ruminant Research. Zaragoza, Spain. Retrieved 13 April 2020.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Hypoglycaemic effect of the salt bush Atriplex halimus, a feeding source of Psammomys obesus
- Mishnah, with Maimonides' Commentary, Tractate Kilaim 1:3, Mossad Harav Kook edition, vol. 1, Jerusalem 1963.
- Mistranslated as "mallows" in the King James Bible and as Nesseln (nettles) in the Luther Bible
- Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 66a, RASHI ibid., s.v. מלוחים.
- Kaftor u'ferach (ed. Avraham Yosef Havatzelet), vol. 3, Jerusalem 1999, p. 262.
- The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Kilaim 1:3, Oxford University Press 1977, p. 28, s.v. "beet and orach."
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