All About SPINACH
First described in the 1500s as “an herbe lately found and not long in use” it now has an established reputation for its health benefits – with iron, calcium, beta carotene and vitamins. The best way to enjoy spinach is to pick and cook it while as fresh as possible, this makes it an ideal vegetable to grow in your own garden particularly as a range of varieties mean that there is a spinach choice for every season!
There are several different plants that fall into the spinach group. There are the leaf beets (which include perpetual spinach and the chards), New Zealand Spinach and the ‘true’ or ‘ordinary’ spinaches
True or ordinary spinach is fast-growing, reasonably hardy veg. Once thought of as a cool season veg there are now good varieties for the warmer months and for growing as full head or baby leaf. Varieties can also have different leaf shapes and textures. Growing as a baby leaf provides some of the most nutritious and delicately flavoured leaves.
For the happiest spinach give them a rich soil with lots of compost dug in which will feed them and retain moisture. They don’t like to be dry but they do prefer a sunny position except in the warmest months when they are happy in part or light shade. In the summer you can interplant them with crops such as sweetcorn, beans or peas which will give them a bit of light shading. Simply harvest when the leaves reach a usable size’ picking carefully as the stems and roots are easily damaged, alternatively pull up the whole plant and replace with a later transplant. Small or baby leaves are delicious in salads, the rest are for cooking. Spinach is also easy to freeze and can be cooked from frozen.
For the earliest sowing: choose Harp (from January) and Amazon. Harp has the added benefit of being able to be sown at any time of the year.
Spring Sowing: Avon (a savoy type with crinkled leaves) and Seaside (an upright smooth leaf choice)
Summer: smooth and succulent Trombone and the glossy, crinkly Bloomsdale are both happy growing in the warmer months. Gazelle is a top choice for salads at this time of year
Autumn sowing: mildew resistant Banjo is great as damper weather sets in, whilst sweet tasting Renegade can overwinter for leaves in the spring too.
Late Sowing: Giant winter and Harp (in a greenhouse) will take you through the coldest months.
And finally the best choice of all for Baby Leaf is Rubino with its pretty red-veined spoon shaped leaves