I love spinach! It’s nutritional and easy to grow. Unfortunately for me, it’s past time to plant it here in the South. Next planting of spinach for us is the beginning of October. However, there are many of you up north who are still within the spinach planting window. Why not consider planting this wonderful crop?
Spinacia oleracea, or spinach, belongs to the amaranthaceae (amaranth) family, which now includes the Goosefoot family (spinach, chard, beets). The English word spinach dates to the late 14th century from the French espinache of uncertain origin (thus we can’t be sure of its meaning).
Spinach originated in ancient Persia and was carried by traders first to India and Nepal, and then to China in 647 C.E. In 827 C.E., Saracens introduced it to Sicily from whence it became popular all over the Arab Mediterranean, arriving in Spain by the end of the 12th century. England and France obtained spinach in the 14th century. In 1533, when Catherine de Medici became the queen of France, spinach was included in the palace’s every meal because she loved it so much. Because of her, dishes including spinach are now called “Florentine” because she was born in Florence. What a great trivia question, eh?
Spinach is a nutrient-packed vegetable. It is full of anti-oxidants and is especially high in lutein. Based on daily recommended amounts, one cup of raw spinach contains (among other nutrients) 181% Vitamin K, 56% Vitamin A, 15% folate, 14% Vitamin C, 13% manganese, 6% magnesium, 5% each of potassium and iron, 3% calcium, and 1% zinc.
Spinach is a cool-weather annual, preferring temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant spinach 1/2 inch deep and two inches apart in nitrogen-rich soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0 in full sun to partial shade. There are two major planting times: up to six weeks prior to the last frost (as late as mid-May in cooler climates), and again six to seven weeks before the first frost in the fall (October 1 here in the Charleston, SC area). Sow heavily because germination decreases to about 50% in warmer weather; after seedlings grow, you can thin to four to six inches apart. Water seeds daily, especially in warmer weather, in order to keep the seeds moist and to cool the soil for germination. Cover with shade cloth if the temperatures go above 80 degrees.
Spinach matures in six to eight weeks and can be harvested leaf by leaf. Leaves can be harvested when the plant has at least six leaves that are three to four inches long. Harvest the mature, outside leaves as they grow. If the plant begins to bolt (throw up a stalk for flowering), harvest the entire plant.
FROM GARDEN TO KITCHEN:
Spinach is great eaten raw by itself or in a salad. It also can be steamed or sauteed. I often saute it instead of escarole in Spinach & Beans. I also place a thick layer of spinach in a casserole dish underneath fish filets and add different herbs and lemon juice, then bake. Instant veggie with your fish.
Here are some other recipes you can try:
There’s nothing like fresh spinach on the table! If, like me, you’re past the planting time for this tender veggie, don’t worry – the fall is coming.