ORACH (Heb. מַלּוּחַ, mallu'aḥ), the species Atriplex halimus.
This shrub grows wild in the saline soil of the lower Jordan valley, in the Negev, and in the Arabah; it is also found in the sandy lands of the Sharon and in the beds of rivers. There is a concentration of the shrub at Abu-Tor in Jerusalem, close to the remains of a Byzantine church, where it may possibly have been cultivated formerly. Some Bedouin eat the leaves cooked or as salad, and they have a popular saying that "were it not for the orach the Bedouin would suffer from sores," and in fact it is rich in the vitamins which prevent skin disease. The Hebrew name mallu'aḥ is derived from its salty taste (melaḥ, "salt"). The shrub can grow in soil with a 20% salt concentration; some of the salt is excreted by the leaves and the granules cover them with a silvery layer. The massed plants in various parts of the Arabah give it its silvery gray landscape. Job (30:4) describes the food of the wretched people living in the wilderness "who pluck mallu'aḥ with wormwood," i.e., who feed on the leaves of the orach which they eat directly from the shrub without first preparing them (see *Wormwood). According to an ancient tradition the children of Israel ate the orach when traveling in the wilderness, and after Alexander *Yannai was victorious in the wilderness he ordered this tradition to be respected, "and they served orach on golden tables and ate it" (Kid. 66a). In talmudic times the cultivated species, Atriplex hortensis, which was named kerosalkinon, was grown and thought to be a hybrid of beet and amarynth (TJ, Kil. 1:4, 27a; Rome Ms.).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.