Spinach is a good vegetable for growing in our cooler conditions. Young leaves can be washed and used in
salads, older leaves should be cooked for a couple of minutes as described later in this article.
Half hardy annual
Site and Soil
Semi-shade or sun in a moist rich soil
Plant to Harvest Time
150 grams / 5 oz per plant
Types of Spinach
This article describes how to sow and grow real spinach (Spinacia oleracea).
This true spinach is sown in early spring and will produce a crop from May to
Many other vegetables have "spinach" in their common name but are not in fact
spinach and taste significantly different. The most common of these is Perpetual
Spinach which is in fact part of the beet family.
Site and Soil
Spinach prefers a soil rich in nutrients and one which holds water well. The best solution
is to add lots of well-rotted compost material to the soil and dig it into the surface soil.
A mulch added around the plants will help retain moisture especially in the summer months.
Spinach does not like the full heat of the summer sun, let the heat get to them and will
bolt. The ideal site is to plant them
between rows of peas, beans or sweet corn. In the early, cooler months of the year the
spinach will get full sunlight. As the peas, beans and sweet corn grow they will provide
cover from the full sun in the warmer parts of the summer.
Spinach is not one of those vegetables which suffers from soil diseases so it can be
grown almost anywhere on the vegetable plot. Rotation is good, but not crucial for spinach.
How to Grow Spinach - Sowing Seed
The calendar on the left
shows spinach being sown outside in spring and autumn when the conditions are cool
and it will germinate. If spinach is sown in warm conditions it will not germinate.
If you can sown your spinach indoors in cooler conditions, it can be spread
throughout the summer as well. Just transplant the seedlings outside when they are
5cm (2in) tall. Provide some shade for those plants in the height of the summer.
Sow the seed outside in rows 1�cm / �in deep and with seeds about 2�cm / 1in apart. If
sowing more than one row, space the rows 30cm / 12in apart.
When the seedlings emerge, thin
them to 15cm 6in apart.
Care for Spinach and Bolting
Spinach is easy to grow if you keep them well-watered when conditions are dry. Any
mulch around the plants will be appreciated because this will cool the rots and help
to retain moisture.
Weeding is needed to avoid competition. However, if the plants are grown between
rows of larger plants the space and conditions for weeds to grow will be greatly
reduced. In effect, the spinach will take the space of the weeds.
The main problem with spinach is that it bolts very easily. As suggested earlier in this
article, plant it between rows of taller plants such as dwarf peas. The other alternative as
far as spinach bolting is concened is make an autumn sowing (see the sowing / harvest chart
How to Grow Spinach - Harvest
Harvest a few leaves from each plant making sure that you leave at least half of
the leaves on the plant. Over-harvesting will kill the plants. To reduce the speed at which
the leaves wilt, cut them off as near to the base of the plant as possible and do it in the
morning or evening. The younger the leaves, the tastier they are.
When you pick the leaves put them in a plastic bag and place them in the fridge as soon
Cooking and Storing
Spinach will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and can also be very successfully
frozen where they will keep for 3 months.
To cook spinach it first needs to be washed a couple of times to remove any mud or soil.
Melt about 15 grams / � oz of butter in a large pan on a medium heat. When the butter has
melted add 450 grams / 1 lb of spinach to the pan. You will need to firm then in. The amount
will look huge initially but they reduce to almost nothing.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 30 seconds or so. Take the lid off, add some salt
and pepper and give the spinach a good mix. Cook for another minute and a half or so until
the leaves are fully wilted. Drain and serve immediately.
That's the basic recipe. Lots of other ingredients can be added including finely chopped
garlic, a small amount of nutmeg and lemon juice. Give them a try. If you want a recipe to
use up excess spinach, try our
Curry which needs lots of spinach. This recipe is for a slow cooker but it can also be
cooked equally well in a pan on a very low heat.
An alternative recipe for the adventurous can be found
here. This is an old fashioned
recipe from Mrs Beeton which uses some spinach.
New F1 varieties of spinach are very reliable and tasty. Two varieties we would recommend
This variety has great resistance to downy mildew and reliably produces a good crop. AGM.
Cut the leaves of this variety when they are young and they can be used raw for salads. The
stems and veins are red making them a very attractive addition to salads.
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