By Tamara Galbraith
Nowadays, Americans are eating five times more fresh spinach than we did in the 1970s. And forget about the canned, slimy stuff Popeye downed in one shot back in the old days; we now prefer our spinach fresh.
And what could be fresher than growing it yourself? The cool temperatures of autumn are perfect for optimum spinach production. Those of us gardening in warmer regions grow spinach through the winter, as long as temps stay above 25 degrees. A light frost will not hurt it.
There are generally two types of spinach: smooth or savoyed. Smooth types are more tender and are best for salads, while the crinkly leaves of savoy spinach can be rubbery and are better for cooking. Some spinach cultivars walk the line between smooth and savoyed and are pretty yummy either raw or cooked.
If you're starting your spinach from seed, soak the seeds in a plastic baggie overnight in the refrigerator before planting. This will soften the hard coating of the seed and allow better germination. Before transplanting, amend your soil with G&B Organics Harvest Supreme. Place transplants about six inches apart, and make sure the soil stays moist and cool. The biggest enemy of spinach is heat, so use shade cloth if temperatures rise dramatically during the day. Mulch is also a good addition for keeping the soil cool. Spinach, like lettuce, does well in containers--with the advantage that you can move them into shadier areas if it gets too warm.
You can harvest spinach by individual leaves or by cropping off the entire plant at the base. As long as temperatures remain cool, the plant will continue to produce leaves...and keep those delicious spinach salads coming.
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