I can't believe I love spinach!
Spinach was one of those vegetables I could barely choke down when young.
I undoubtedly practiced the best of my disappearing vegetable tricks whenever spinach, all mushy and wet, showed up on my plate.
Yes, now I love to eat spinach and I love to grow spinach.
Fresh, homegrown spinach and a good recipe make all the difference!
We have grown and enjoyed many spinach varieties. Let's have a look at a few we found to be outstanding:
Maybe this spinach got the name EVERLASTING for more than one reason.
First of all, it did not bolt in our garden throughout the entire season! When a plant bolts, it produces flowers and seeds. The leaf production diminishes as the energy goes to the flowers and seeds. Many varieties of spinach tend to bolt when the summer days warm up and lengthen.
In fertile soil, the beautiful, savoyed (crinkled) leaves of a vigorous EVERLASTING spinach plant will grow large and healthy throughout the summer and into fall.
Another reason for the name EVERLASTING is because this spinach is, in fact, a biennial plant! This explains the failure to bolt the first year. A biennial plant ordinarily grows leaves the entire first season. The second year, the biennial plant grows flowers and seeds before it dies off. So, if you allow it, you will likely see your EVERLASTING spinach plants revive the second year to produce flowers and seeds.
A third reason for the name EVERLASTING, at least from my viewpoint, is because this variety of spinach will always have a place in our gardens.
Spinach, in general, is known to contain oxalic acid. The bitter taste of spinach is, at least in part, a consequence of oxalic acid. Also, it sounds like this oxalic acid can interfere with the absorption of calcium and possibly other beneficial minerals in our diets. So, it is good to know there is a sweet tasting spinach found to be low in oxalic acid. MONNOPA!
MONNOPA spinach is unusually tasty. We have been eating it off and on for nearly 30 years.
As with many spinach varieties, MONNOPA is an annual and tends to bolt by mid-summer if started in spring. I let the plants bolt and harvest the seeds by summer's end. No need to purchase seeds the next year if you harvest and save your own!
We have enjoyed MONNOPA leaves in the fall months by starting more seeds and planting another small bed in June or July.
NEW ZEALAND SPINACH
Do a little research and you will learn that NEW ZEALAND spinach is not a true spinach. It was called "spinach" because it looks and tastes a lot like spinach.
NEW ZEALAND spinach is a perennial in some parts of the world, but has acted like an annual in our gardens. It dies off by winter, never to return.
NEW ZEALAND spinach is not early to bolt. Luscious stems and leaves are plentiful for harvest all through the summer and into fall. The plants continuously grow and spread covered with deep green, succulent looking leaves of various sizes. The upper stems are tender and easily picked with attached leaves for good eating. Gradually, by early fall, small yellow flowers begin to form. The plant tends to die off here in Sitka before seeds mature.
NEW ZEALAND spinach is high in oxalic acid. It might reduce the oxalic acid a tiny bit by dropping the leaves and tender stems into boiling water (called blanching) for 2 or 3 minutes. Next, cool the greens in a container of cold water. Finally, drain.
Enjoy blanched NEW ZEALAND spinach mixed in with sautéed onions or leeks. These greens are delicious in an omelet or quiche! Maybe add to a stir fry. Enjoy the greens chopped into a salad.
It is simple to vacuum and freeze your blanched NEW ZEALAND spinach after draining it well.
After blanching and draining, we have also dehydrated these greens and blended them into a powder. The powder is a quick and easy addition to such things as soups, smoothies, green drinks... and so much more.
Let's use NEW ZEALAND spinach for the example here.
In the past I liked to start my spinach seeds around mid-April. But, nowadays, it makes more sense to start them in early April. You will likely be successful starting them even earlier. Spinach plants do not seem to mind being cool once the seeds have sprouted.
So, let's get those seeds sprouting indoors!
Soak your seeds for several hours, even overnight, in room temperature water. These seeds are large!
- Fill 4" pots with potting soil or a seed starting mix.
- Plant 2 or 3 seeds in each 4" pot. The seeds should be planted about 1/2 inch deep.
- Place your pots on a tray in a warm location or on top of a seed starting mat.
- Keep the soil in the pots moistened, but not soaking wet.
- Loosely cover the tray of pots with plastic, except when uncovered for watering.
Most spinach seeds are not quick to germinate. It can take a few weeks before you see your little sprouts.
NEW ZEALAND spinach seeds, in particular, can take as many as 3 weeks to germinate... and not all at the same time. Not all of these seeds will germinate. That is why I like to put 2 or 3 seeds in each pot.
- Once the majority of the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic cover.
- No need for the seedling heat mat either.
- Keep the plants moist and warm indoors in your sunniest window until they are a couple of inches tall. At this point, the plants will look sizable and healthy.
- Move the tray of plants out to a cold frame or greenhouse for a week or two. A protected, outdoor location will help the plants get accustomed to being cool at night. This is called hardening off.
- Meanwhile, prepare a raised bed of fertile soil for your spinach starts. In general, spinach likes a somewhat sweet soil. Because of the volcanic ash in our soil, you might want to till in some shell sand or store bought sweetener with your spinach soil to raise the pH of the soil a little. Go easy if you use lime!
Here is a close up look at my NEW ZEALAND spinach starts when they were ready to plant outdoors in a raised bed.
So into the ground went the starts. If there was more than one plant in a pot, I separated them so each plant has its' own spot.
They were planted about 1 foot apart.
Notice there is a little bowl type depression around each plant. Spinach likes to be moist. So, whether from rain or a watering hose, the bowls fill up around each plant to insure that the roots get plenty of water.
Best to cover the entire bed loosely with a floating row cover. Although they do not bother NEW ZEALAND spinach, aphids like some spinach varieties. The floating row cover will keep out pests and it will increase the soil temperature significantly. No need to remove the floating row cover for watering. Rain and sun pass through the cloth. Keep the row cover in place with rocks or some other weight.
After a productive summer with lots of harvesting, here is a look at some of the NEW ZEALAND spinach plants in early fall. They are beginning to show their tiny yellow flowers. This is when I made a final large harvest, blanched it all, dehydrated it all and blended it into a powder for use throughout winter and spring.
There are so many varieties of spinach! I encourage you to try at least one new variety each year.