Spinach is full of vitamins and antioxidants, like other dark greens, and it's easy to grow in your home vegetable garden. In this article, we'll talk about growing spinach, selecting and serving spinach, and the health benefits of spinach.

Spinach is a very hardy and easy-to-grow green that's packed with
vitamins and antioxidants.

Spinach is a hardy annual with a rosette of dark green leaves. The leaves may be crinkled (savoy leaf) or flat. Spinach is related to beets and chard.

Common Name: Spinach
Scientific Name: Spinacia oleracea
Hardiness: Very hardy (will survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow spinach.

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Growing Spinach

Spinach plants are very hardy and can tolerate cold; in fact, spinach thrives in cold weather. Heat and long days make spinach bolt (go to seed) quickly. Spinach grows well in the winter in the South, and in early spring and late summer in the North. Plant spinach about four weeks before the average date of last frost.

Spinach tolerates partial shade and requires well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. Spinach does not like acid soil.

Baked spinach balls
Spinach is the star of baked spinach balls.

The plant is grown from seed clusters that each produce several seedlings. Spinach must be thinned when the seedlings appear. Plant spinach seed clusters 1/2 inch deep and 2 to 4 inches apart. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to leave the strongest seedling from each cluster.

Spinach does best when the soil is kept uniformly moist. Try not to splash muddy water on the leaves, which will make the spinach difficult to clean after harvesting. Mulch to retain moisture and avoid getting soil on the leaves.

Harvesting Spinach

The time from planting to harvest is 40 to 45 days. To harvest, either pick the out-side leaves periodically or pull up the entire plant.

Types of Spinach
  • Melody Hybrid, harvest at 42 days, is an All America Selection that gives semierect plants with dark green leaves.
  • Bloomsdale Long-Standing, harvest at 48 days, produces thick-textured, crinkled, dark green leaves.
  • Renegade, harvest at 30 days, matures early and is compact and mildew resistant.
In the next section, we'll teach you how to select and serve your home-grown spinach.

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Selecting Spinach

Spinach comes in two basic varieties: curly-leafed and smooth. Smooth is more popular, because curly-leafed is more difficult to rid of dirt that's buried in its folds. Choose spinach with leaves that are crisp and dark green; avoid limp or yellowing leaves, an indication that the spinach is past its prime. Refrigerate unwashed spinach in a loose plastic bag; it'll keep for three to four days. If you wash it before you store it, the leaves have a tendency to deteriorate rapidly.

Wash spinach two or three times before serving to remove all grit.

Preparing and Serving Spinach

Wash spinach leaves carefully and thoroughly, repeating the rinsing process two or three times. Even a speck of grit left behind can ruin an otherwise perfect dish.

Spinach is treasured for its versatility; it's tasty whether you serve it fresh or cooked. Either way, it can be included in dishes without adding hardly any calories. Warm spinach salads are a classic, but they are typically high in saturated fat. For a tasty version low in saturated fat, omit the bacon and egg yolks, and use mushrooms and garbanzo beans instead. To cook spinach, simmer the leaves in a small amount of water until the leaves just begin to wilt, about five minutes. Top with lemon juice, seasoned vinegar, sauted garlic, or a dash of nutmeg, and serve.

Salad doesn't have to leave you with that empty feeling. Use spinach in your next salad, and not only can you brag that you are eating healthy, you won't hear your stomach growling while you boast to your friends.

In the next section, we'll talk abut the health benefits of spinach.

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Health Benefits of Spinach

When you were a kid, your mom told you spinach was good for you. When is Mom ever wrong? Spinach offers twice as much fiber as other greens. So when you want a salad that's going to fill you up, go for the spinach variety.

Wilted spinach mandarin
Showcase your home-grown spinach
Wilted Spinach Mandarin.

Spinach is a nutrition superstar, even a fairly good source of iron. It's loaded with vitamins and minerals, some of which are hard to find in other foods.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Like other dark greens, spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant that's been shown, among other things, to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. It fights heart disease and cancer as well.

As a dark, leafy green, spinach possesses several important phytochemicals, including lutein, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration. Spinach also contains lipoic acid, which helps antioxidant vitamins C and E regenerate. Because of its role in energy production, lipoic acid is being investigated for regulating blood sugar levels.

Served raw, spinach is a good source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant. Overcook it, however, and you lose most of this important vitamin. Though spinach is rich in calcium, most of it is unavailable, because oxalic acid in spinach binds with calcium, preventing its absorption. The abundant potassium in spinach is available, and it will promote heart health. When you cook spinach, it cooks down tremendously. Because cooking concentrates nutrients and fiber, a serving of cooked spinach gives you even more bang for your buck than a serving of raw.

Nutritional Values of Raw Spinach
Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories 7
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 1 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sodium 24 mg
Vitamin A 2,813 IU
Folic Acid 58 micrograms
Vitamin C 16 mg
Iron 1 mg
Manganese <1 mg
Potassium 167 mg
Carotenoids 5,347 micrograms

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.