Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green flowering vegetable. It is species of the order Caryophyllales, family Amaranthaceae, subfamily Chenopodioideae. The plant is native to central and western Asia. It is popularly grown for its dark green leaves that are a common edible.
Spinach is consumed either freshly cooked, raw, or after storage using preservation techniques like canning, freezing, or dehydration. This article is a detailed account of what the spinach plant is and its most common uses. Stay with us to find out more about this great veggie.
Spinach is a hardy crop that is easy to grow, and the best part is that it’s rich in vitamins. The plant is packed with iron, and spinach is also high in thiamin, potassium, and folic acid. In addition, like most dark green leafy vegetables, spinach also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. In contrast, many different spinach varieties have various leaf shapes and textures.
The first thing we all should know is that spinach is divided into three main varieties. Those types are savoy, semi-savoy, and flat-leafed. In addition, each of these varieties has its cultivars or sub-varieties.
Have You Grown Lettuce Before?
It’s also pretty easy to grow spinach if you already have experience with lettuce. Do you know why? Well, in short, they both have similar growing conditions and needs. However, it is still more versatile in both its nutrition and ability to be eaten raw or cooked, and that’s why spinach is popularly used worldwide.
|Botanical Name||Spinacia Oleracea|
|Plant Type||An Annual|
|Size (Fully Grown)||2 To 4 Feet (About 0,60 To 1,22 Meters)|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun But Tolerates Partial Shade Too|
|Soil Type||Well-draining Soil|
|Soil pH||From 6.4 To 8.0|
|Flower Color||Yellow And Green|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||Depending On The Variety, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, And 12|
|Native Area||Central And Western Asia|
Different Spinach Varieties
Besides being a healthy plant, spinach many have different varieties. It is a plant that survives in cold weather and well over spring and fall. Most spinach varieties do well in various temperature conditions. Some do well in the cold, and others do well at a warm temperature.
The varieties vary over the growth period, where some grow pretty quickly and some a bit slower. Plant varieties also differ in taste, so most spinach varieties taste different from others. As a gardener, it is essential to know about different spinach varieties.
So, whenever you plant spinach in your garden, consider that spinach is divided into three main types: savoy, semi-savoy and flat-leafed. Each of these varieties has its cultivars or sub-varieties. Here we have listed some of the most popular spinach varieties.
- Red Kitten
- Wood Pecker
- Indian Summer
- Malabar Spinach
- New Zealand Spinach
What Is The Origin Of Spinach?
Spinach is an annual leafy green vegetable with highly nutritious dark green leaves that have been used for nourishment since ancient times.
It may have originated from Spinacia tetrandra, a plant still gathered as a wild edible green in Anatolia. However, its origin is in ancient Persia, about 2000 years ago. From there, it was introduced to India and ancient China through Nepal as the Persian vegetable.
Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, and it came there probably from Spain, where it was used as an everyday veggie. It became prevalent because it grew in spring when no other vegetables were harvested.
Today it’s is both commonly grown and used throughout the world for various purposes per the different traditions found worldwide.
How To Identify Spinach?
Spinach has simple leaves that stem from the plant’s center. The leaves’ size is about 0,8 to 12,0 inches (about 2 to 30 cm) long and 0,4 to 6,0 inches (approximately 1 to 15 cm) across.
The plant is compact, upright to slightly spreading, with tender dark green edible leaves forming a rosette that may appear crinkled or flat. The leaves are glossy, oval, or spade-shaped and usually have a pointy growth style.
The plant produces small yellow-green flowers with a diameter of 0,1 inches (about 3 to 4 mm). The flowers have small fruit clusters that contain seeds. Seeds are straw-colored, and they look a bit like radish seeds. The shape of the seed varies from round to smooth to prickly.
As we have discussed earlier, spinach is an annual that usually survives only one growing season, and during that, it can reach a width of 12 inches (about 30 cm).
How To Grow Spinach?
Spinach grows well in cold areas and can survive the first frost of temperate climates. The plant is grown from seeds, usually sown in early spring for a summer harvest and fall if your environment allows a winter or spring harvest.
When you're sowing the seeds, there are a few measures that are good to keep in mind. Sowing the seeds to a depth of one inch (about 2,5 cm) and spacing the rows 13 to 15 inches (about 33 to 38 cm) apart from each other is optimal for growing spinach.
You can sow the seeds as early as six weeks before the last frost indoors, and as soon as you can work the soil, plant them outside. If the weather is not too cold, the seeds will germinate in five to nine days. It would be best to grow spinach in the shade in warmer climates so the young plants can avoid the hottest daytime sun and be ready for harvest in fall or winter.
You can harvest the spinach leaves as soon as they are large enough to use. In large-scale commercial production, they use harvesting machines, but we will pick the individual leaves by hand to ensure that we get as much produce from one plant. But if you want to, you can also harvest the whole plant at once.
Spinach grows best in loamy soil that still drains well. The pH of it should be somewhere between 6.4 and 8.0. But I also warn you that the plant is sensitive to acidic soil, and if the pH is too high, adding lime to it is a good thing to do. Please remember that the soil temperature shouldn’t exceed 85°F (about 29,4°C) because the seeds will have difficulty germinating in this hot environment.
In What Temperature Does Spinach Grow Best At?
Spinach doesn’t grow well at either extremely hot or cold temperatures. The spinach’s optimal germination and growing temperature is between 40 to 60°F (about 4 and 16°C). But the plant can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C). Thus, I advise everyone growing spinach to grow it in an environment with an average temperature of 60 to 70°F (about 15,5 to 21°C).
Spinach grows well when the soil is evenly moist, and if rainfall is inadequate, an inch or two (about 2.5 to 5 cm) of water every week. But instead of giving all the water at once, I recommend you water it only a little bit, for example, three to four times a week.
Water might even be necessary every day in hot climates because it helps the soil cool down and create a better environment for the young plant to grow. Another great way to help the ground keep moisture is to spread mulch around the plant.
Spinach needs a full sun environment in cold climates, and if you live in a hot climate, it’s better to provide them a bit of shade as that saves the plant from high sun exposure and avoids the risk of bolting.
Spinach has needs for nutrients like every other plant. Two nutrients it especially needs are nitrogen and potassium. Thankfully, you can provide them by applying some fertilizer.
I want to remind you that only fertilize after you know how much you should give; in other words, make a soil test before using any fertilizers. If you are lucky enough to have a home garden, you won’t probably need fertilizers if the soil is already fertile.
Different Uses For Spinach
Besides being straightforward to grow, spinach is a healthy plant, whether it’s eaten when it’s still raw or you cook it. Here are the most common uses for this excellent plant:
As we all know, spinach is used in different cuisines, salads, and soups. But the plant is also an excellent source of vitamin K, A, C, and B2. What’s more, it’s even a superb addition to your diet if you are trying to lose weight because it’s low in calories and suppresses hunger. Also, the nitrates in spinach help regulate your high blood pressure.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Spinach?
Spinach is a nutritious green high in iron, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. But the only question that might be in your mind right now is whether it’s safe to eat spinach if you have some medical condition that requires you to be cautious about what you eat. Let’s find out!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Spinach is a plant that contains a lot of folates. And folate is a vitamin that prevents different neural tube congenital disabilities, one of them being “spina bifida.” This is a congenital disability where the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
Of course, leaving spinach out of your diet doesn’t mean that your baby will get this congenital disability, but spinach is still an excellent addition to your diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s a good thing to eat spinach, and the plant is completely safe for children too, and even babies that have just started to eat solids are on the safe side. But because spinach is high in nitrates, some pediatricians tell you only feed your baby commercially produced spinach. For example, spinach puree is an excellent choice.
People With Allergies
Having an allergy to spinach is extremely rare, but it does occur. Some of the common symptoms that might come to life when a person is allergic to spinach include nasal congestion and shortness of breath and wheezing, to name a few of the symptoms.
People With Diabetes
I have some excellent news for people that have diabetes! This plant is beneficial for people with diabetes because it contains high amounts of protein and fiber.
But the plant also has an insignificant effect on your blood sugar levels, so it’s completely safe and recommended to eat spinach.
Ok, the good news is that dogs can eat spinach. But it would be best if you were careful and not give it too much for your dog because the plant is high in oxalic acid. In high amounts, this is a substance that might block your pet’s ability to absorb calcium, which can lead to kidney damage.
Spinach is beneficial for cats too, but only in moderate amounts. You must also never give your cat spinach if it has some medical condition like urinary problems.