Spinach is a leafy green flowering plant native to central and western Asia. It is of the order Caryophyllales, family Amaranthaceae, subfamily Chenopodioideae. The botanical name of spinach is Spinacia oleracea. It is a vegetable rich in many nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, iron and calcium.
The spinach plant has simple leaves which stem from the center of the plant. The leaves grow in a rosette and can appear crinkled or flat. The plant produces small yellow-green flowers and the flowers produce small fruit clusters which contain seeds. Its leaves are a common edible vegetable consumed either fresh, or after storage using preservation techniques by canning, freezing, or dehydration.
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6 to 12 inches (Depend on varieties)
1 to 3 feet (Depend on varieties)
6 - 12 inches
between 6.5 and 8.0
Growth Nutrition of Spinach
The primary nutrients you'll need to provide for your spinach plants are calcium and magnesium. Avoid too much nitrogen as it can cause leaf tip burn. You'll want to start out with a light nutrient mix, then raise it gradually after a few weeks until you get to full strength.
Varieties of Spinach
Baby-leaf style spinach is tender, with small-size leaves. The variety ‘Baby’s Leaf’ is good for containers; ‘Catalina’ is heat-tolerant and resistant to downy mildew.
Savoy spinach is more productive than the other two forms of spinach. It also handles the cold better than the other varieties. As for appearance, it has very crinkled leaves that grow pretty low, which means that you have to bend down a bit to clean the leaves.
'Bloomsdale' is a well-known, thick-leafed spinach that is fairly succulent and savoury in nature. It handles the cold pretty well. Also, it produces large yields during the early part of the summer.
'Regiment' plant produces large yields of deep, saturated green leaves that stay soft and tender even when they have matured. This makes the plant easy to cook and use in the kitchen.
Semi-Savoy varieties have a more upright habit that makes mud splash less likely, and the leaves aren’t as crinkly, so they’re easier to wash. They also tend to have better disease- and- bolt-resistance.
‘Melody’ is resistant to cucumber mosaic virus and downy mildew; mildew-resistant
‘Remington’ will grow in spring, summer, or fall;
‘Tyee’ can be planted in spring or fall, and is resistant to downy mildew.
Smooth- or flat-leaf (also called plain leaf) has smooth, flat leaves that are easier to clean, which makes it the primary choice for processed spinach.
‘Giant Nobel’ is a plain leaf variety and an heirloom that is slow to bolt.
‘Nordic IV’ is bolt-resistant.
‘Red Cardinal’ showcases red veins in the leaves and has deep red stems. It makes a great addition to a salad, but it bolts faster than any green-leafed spinach and hence must be harvested young.
Malabar Spinach (Basella alba), This spinach needs a lot of summer heat and a trellis to climb on, which will help it reach its full potential. This could be a 10’ vine.
New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides): The leaves of this plant are crisp and succulent. They pretty much melt in your mouth as you bite into them! So it can be eaten raw but also cooked.
Spinach tolerates full sun to light shade; prepare soil about a week before planting by mixing in compost. Alternatively, prepare the soil in late summer or early fall, when spinach can also be sown where winters are mild.
When to Plant Spinach
Spinach requires 6 weeks of cool weather from seeding to harvest, so sow seeds directly into the soil as soon as the ground warms to 40°F. (Cover the soil with black plastic to speed its warming.)
Although seeds can be started indoors, it is not recommended, as seedlings are difficult to transplant.
Gardeners in northern climates can harvest early-spring spinach if it’s planted just before the cold weather arrives in fall. Protect the young plants with a cold frame or thick mulch through the winter, then remove the protection when soil temperature in your area reaches 40ºF in spring. Remove the mulch to harvest some spinach then replace the mulch.
To distract leaf miners, sow radish seeds in alternate rows. Leaf miner damage to radish tops does not affect their root growth.
Common spinach cannot grow in midsummer. (For a summer harvest, try New Zealand Spinach or Malabar Spinach, two similar leafy greens that are more heat tolerant.)
For a fall crop, re-sow in mid-August when the soil is no warmer than 70°F.
How to Plant Spinach
Sow seeds 1/2 of an inch deep every 2 inches and cover with 1/2 inch of soil.
Plant in rows 12 to 18 inches apart or sprinkle over a wide row or bed.
Sow every couple of weeks during early spring for a continuous harvest.
Water spinach to keep soil constantly moist.
Use row covers to maintain cool soil and deter pests.
When seedlings sprout to about 2 inches, thin them to 3-4 inches apart. You can eat the thinnings.
Beyond thinning, no cultivation is necessary. Roots are shallow and easily damaged.
Water regularly and mulch to retain moisture.
When plants reach one-third of their growth, side-dress with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, as needed. Nutrient deficiencies may appear as yellow or pale leaves, stunted or distorted growth, a purpling or bronzing of leaves, leaves dropping early, or other symptoms.
In early spring and late fall: Spinach can tolerate the cold; it can survive a frost and temps down to 15ºF (-9°C). Young spinach is more tender; cover if cold temps are in the forecast.
How to Grow Spinach From Seed
Aim to plant spinach seeds that are less than a year old, as the germination rate falls the older seeds get. You might have to till your soil before planting, as spinach likes a loose, fine soil. Firm the soil over the seeds, and water to evenly moisten it. Make sure to keep the soil moist during the germination process, and you should see growth in a week or two.
How to Grow Spinach in Pots
Growing spinach in containers is a great way to keep it easily accessible for harvesting. And it can help to deter pests from munching on your crop. Choose a container that’s at least 10 to 12 inches deep with a similar width. You also can use a window box for a few plants, depending on their mature size. The container must have drainage holes. Unglazed clay is an ideal material because it allows excess soil moisture to escape through its walls. Note that containers tend to dry out faster than the ground, so you'll likely have to water container plants more frequently.
In warm climates, you might be able to sow seeds in the fall and harvest well into winter. If the ground freezes before the plants mature, mulch them with hay and leave them be until the temperatures warm again in the spring. Remove the mulch, and the plants should resume growing, giving you an early harvest.
Pruning and propagating Spinach
Harvesting the leaves throughout the growing season is how you prune a spinach plant to keep it vigorous. If a plant becomes diseased or damaged, it's often best to pull the whole plant to prevent it from affecting nearby plants.
Spinach typically is grown from seeds, but it's also possible to propagate plants from stems you pull that still have roots attached. (Taking stem cuttings typically isn't successful.) This skips the germination time that seeds take, allowing you to get a quicker harvest. Here's how:
As you harvest from mature spinach plants, find a stem that has roots. Gently pull it out of the ground, keeping the roots as intact as possible.
Plant the stem in a quality potting mix, and water to maintain even moisture.
Once you feel resistance when gently tugging on the stem, you'll know a strong root system has formed.
Potting and Repotting Spinach
Use an organic, all-purpose, well-draining potting mix for spinach. It's best to pot in a container that will accommodate the plant's mature size, as spinach doesn't like its roots disturbed in repotting.
Harvesting and Storing Spinach
Harvest a few outer leaves from each plant (so that inner leaves can develop) when leaves reach desired size, or harvest the entire plant, cutting the stem at the base.
Don’t wait too long to harvest or wait for larger leaves. Bitterness will set in quickly after maturity. Be aware of day length and heat: Increasing daylight (about 14 hours or longer) and warmer seasonal temperatures can cause spinach to bolt (develop a large stalk with narrower leaves and buds/flowers/seeds), which turns leaf taste bitter.
If spinach starts to bolt, pull the plant and use the leaves. Or try to slow the bolting: Pinch off the flower/seed heads, keep the soil moist, and provide shade.
How to Store Spinach
Fresh spinach leaves are good up to a week. Too much moisture hastens its demise. So store fresh spinach unwashed and don’t wash until ready to use. Pat dry with a paper towel and put in a freezer bag with the towel to absorb moisture.
Given its short shelf life, spinach is perfect for freezing. Wash, trim off ends and yellowing leaves, blanch, and pack into freezer bags.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Because spinach is grown when the weather is cool and damp, several fungal diseases, such as downy mildew (blue mold) and fusarium wilt, can become problems. Space your spinach plants so they get good air circulation, and try to keep water off the leaves in the evening.
Aphids also pose a risk to spinach because they can spread viruses. Monitor your crop for aphids regularly, and hose them off immediately if you find them. Plus, wild animals, rabbits chief among them, also might raid your spinach patch. The best defense against them is fencing.
Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is linked to numerous health benefits that improve your eyesight, cancer prevention and regulate blood sugar. This is the actual reason why this leafy green is considered a superfood. Here are some health benefits of spinach that you need to know.
Spinach has a high source of zeaxanthin and carotenoids that can flush out the free radicals from your body. These free radicals make your body prone to many diseases including cancer and as a result, spinach is said to prevent cancer. So all you need to do is to consume spinach and prevent yourself from stomach cancer, mouth cancer and oesophagus cancer.
Reduces Blood Sugar
Spinach is said to have high potassium content that is usually recommended for people suffering from high blood pressure. So how does potassium benefit a person suffering from high blood pressure? Well, potassium reduces the effects of sodium in the body.
Aids in Good Bone Health
Spinach contains vitamin K that aids in good bone health and this means adequate consumption of vitamins can do good to your health. It also improves calcium absorption by your body. Spinach contains 250 milligrams of calcium per cup and this is much required by your bones and teeth. Calcium is a strengthening agent for your bones and keeps your bones healthy.
Aids in Weight Loss
Spinach leaves aids in weight loss and also are low in calories. Its high amounts of fibre content also help in good digestion, regulate low blood sugar and prevent constipation. All you need to do is to consume spinach once a day and this will do good for your health. Spinach makes feel full and curbs your appetite. So adding this to your everyday diet will help benefit you in multiple ways.
Good For Your Eyes
The antioxidants that are found in spinach are lutein and zeaxanthin and these help in providing good eyesight. It also protects yours from cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and other eye problems. The vitamin A found in spinach helps to maintain mucus membranes that are essential for normal eyesight.
Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure is responsible for causing many heart diseases, kidney disease and strokes. Thus consuming this superfood can prevent all these risks and keep you healthy. Consuming at least once a day can reduce anxiety and stress and help you keep a calm mind. Spinach contains vitamin C that also helps in reducing hypertension.
Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
This superfood contains neoxanthin and violaxanthin are two anti-inflammatory properties that regulate inflammation. Its high source of anti-inflammatory properties can help you prevent osteoporosis, migraine, asthma, arthritis and headaches. So make sure that you add this healthy leafy green to your regular diet and reap the benefits of it.
Keeps Your Body Relaxed
Spinach keeps your mind calm so that you do not get tensed and maintain a stress-free life. Its high source of zinc and magnesium enables you to get good sleep at night and good sleep can help aid all your mental illnesses. This will help your body stay relaxed and rest your eyes. So consuming spinach at least once a day can definitely do good to your health.
Keeps Your Brain Functioning Normally
This leafy green helps in the smooth functioning of your brain, especially during old age. Thus consuming this leafy green on a daily basis will keep your brain active and enable you to think intelligently. It’s content of vitamin K, Vitamin K helps a healthy nervous system and aid in normal behaviour.
Boosts Your Immunity
Vitamin A content found in spinach is said to strengthen the entry points in the human body such as respiratory, intestinal tracts and mucus membranes. So all you need to do is to consume one cup of spinach every day and stay healthy. It energises you and keeps you active all day.
Prevents Heart Attacks and Atherosclerosis
Over the years excessive fat gets stored in your arteries and this leads to thickening of the human artery which results in strokes and atherosclerosis. However, the arteries tend to harden over the years and in order to prevent this from happening you need to consume spinach that will prevent this from happening. This is because of a substance called lutein that is responsible for preventing your arteries from thickening. This substance also prevents the risk of developing heart diseases.
Spinach has a high source of iron content in it that can prevent you from the risks of developing anaemia. Iron is also good for women who are menstruating, children and adults. Iron also boosts energy in the human body and also helps in carrying oxygen to all the cells of the body.
Your skin is the largest and the most sensitive part of your body and if you are looking for a skin texture that is glowing, then you need to try consuming some spinach. However, our skin requires essential nutrients and minerals that need to keep it healthy and as a result, this leafy green vegetable is the right dose that can do good to your skin. Some of the vital nutrients that spinach contains are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E including vitamin K which plays an important role in healthy skin.
Acne is a skin condition that can reduce your self-confidence in society and can also damage your skin and leave skin scars that can be permanent. Well, if you have acne try consuming some spinach and this ease the inflammation in your skin and reduce acne. You can also prepare a facial mask by making some spinach paste and adding a little water. Once this is done you need to apply it onto your face and wait for 20 minutes. This will reduce inflammation in your skin and remove dirt and extra oil that causes acne.
Natural Anti-Ageing Properties
Premature ageing is one of the most common problems that most youths are facing today. However, spinach comes loaded with antioxidants that have the tendency to destroy and prevent free radicals that cause premature ageing. Consuming spinach on a regular basis will benefit your skin and give it a shiny texture. Instead, it will rejuvenate your skin and make you look younger and healthy.
The leaves are used for food and to make medicine.
As a medicine, spinach is used to treat stomach and intestinal (gastrointestinal, GI) complaints and fatigue.
It is also used as a blood-builder and an appetite stimulant. Some people use it for promoting growth in children and recovery from illness.