by National Gardening Association Editors
Spinach is one of the most versatile greens you can grow. It fits into almost any part of the menu. Delicious raw in salads, it's also tasty steamed, stir-fried with a little garlic and ginger, or chopped and added to soups, quiches and casseroles. In addition, spinach is one of the most nutritious greens you can grow. Raw spinach is high in vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.
Timing Your Planting
The leaves of a robust spinach plant are large, and if you've ever grown spinach, you know it doesn't take many leaves to fill a basket. But, when you cook them, they really wilt, and a lot turns to a little. To get a lot of spinach from a small space, try planting it in wide rows 15 to 20 inches across. Because spinach thrives in cool weather, plant early in the spring and again in late summer or fall for fall or winter harvest, depending on your climate. In many parts of the country you can plant in fall and overwinter the crop for an early spring harvest.
Don't be afraid to start your spinach plants early in the season, three to six weeks before the last frost-free day in your area. Spinach seeds germinate well in cool soil, and the young plants grow best at cool temperatures and tolerate light frosts. If you plant too late in the season, you may find that early summer heat and lengthening days cause your plants to bolt, or form seedheads before you have much of a harvest.
'Bloomsdale Longstanding' is an old favorite of many gardeners. It has crinkled, dark green leaves and is slow to bolt. 'Tyee' is another popular, widely adapted savoy type. 'Olympia' is smooth leaved, while 'Melody' is heavy yielding and disease resistant. 'Winter Bloomsdale' is a nice fall-harvested spinach; many gardeners, especially those in the South where winters are mild, plant it in the fall to harvest through the cool winter months and early spring.
And then there's 'New Zealand' spinach, which isn't a spinach at all, but a green that's grown as a warm-weather substitute for spinach. The leaves have a spinach-like flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked, although not everyone finds them very palatable when raw. The seeds of 'New Zealand' spinach have a hard seed coat. Soaking them overnight before planting will hasten germination, although you can usually get a good stand just by planting in moist soil.
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