Atriplex halimus (known also by its common names: Mediterranean saltbush, Sea orache, Shrubby orache, Silvery orache) is a species of fodder shrub in the Amaranthaceae family, which is native to Europe and Northern Africa, including the Sahara in Morocco.
This plant is often cultivated as forage because tolerating severe conditions of drought, and it can grow up 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).
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.
- 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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