From the Desk of Ed Hume: Spinach

April 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

One of the most nutrient-rich leaf crops is spinach.  For the diet conscience, it is quite low in calories and high in Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.  Spinach is one of the more versatile greens too, because it can be used fresh in salads, steamed, or used in casseroles, pizza, soufflés, etc.  Newly picked leaves can be canned or frozen for later use.

In this region, spinach is an excellent year-round, cool season leaf crop.  Most varieties are planted during cool Spring or Fall (for over-wintering crop) weather.  However, the slow-to-bolt varieties like Olympia and Tyee can even be planted in a cool spot during the Summer months.  Likewise, New Zealand spinach (which is not a true spinach) can be grown during warm Summer weather.

Olympia Hybrid is a long standing smooth leaf, home garden variety that was developed right here in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s highly recommended because it resists bolting under high temperatures and long day conditions.  Because of that, it is an ideal variety for Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter crops.

Tyee Hybrid is also a Northwest-developed variety.  It is a long-standing, heat tolerant semi-savoy type spinach.  The leaves are thick and slightly wrinkled with an attractive dark green color and excellent flavor.  Sammish, another Northwest variety, is an excellent cold weather variety.

New Zealand spinach is actually Tetragone, an old-time favorite leaf green which is not a true spinach.  The flavor or texture is not the same either, but it will grow in hot weather where some varieties would tend to bolt.  This variety has a natural low germination rate and should be sown about 2 inches apart.

Harvest the outer young tender spinach leaves for best flavor.  During the growing season the spinach plants should be fertilized a couple of times with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer to encourage the growth of young tender leaves.

When harvesting, if plants are cut one or two inches above the ground then fertilized again, a second crop can be grown from the same original plants.

Over Winter, spinach should be covered with “row cover” (like Reemay, fabric, or light-weight cloth material) during the coldest Winter weather.  Spinach is also an excellent Winter crop to grow in a cold frame.

A couple of other greens that are spinach-like include the Perpetual spinach, often called Green Leaf Chard, which is actually a smooth Swiss leaf Swiss Chard.  Another is Mustard spinach, which is actually Tendergreen and has leaves that are mild flavored, smooth, and dark green.

All of the varieties of spinach and spinach-like plants can be direct seeded early in the season as soon as all danger of frost has passed.

-Ed

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