Atriplex 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).
The generic name originated in Latin and was applied by Pliny the Elder to the edible oraches.
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.
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. 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.