Common name: Spinach
Spinach is not just Popeye’s favorite, but a favorite of most kitchen gardeners, since they grow fast and grow abundantly. And they are full of all the essential nutrients you need. Spinach grows to a height of about 1 foot, with simple, green, oval shaped leaves.
The leaves are glossy and fleshy with a pale green petiole attaching them to the stem. The stem is soft and fleshy, with shallow roots that spread around anchoring the plant to the soil. Flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, later forming bunches of hard, lumpy fruits containing multiple seeds.
Leaves are eaten raw or cooked; in salads, stir fries, stews, soups or other dishes. They can be plucked when they are small and tender, or after they mature, depending on the use. The leaves vary in size from 1-12 inches, larger leaves towards the base of the plant and smaller ones towards the tip.
Spinach contains large quantities of water that’s released on cooking, about 91%. It also contains iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamin A, C, K and high levels of dietary fiber.
Though they also have moderate amounts of iron and calcium, they cannot be absorbed well into the body because of the high levels of oxalates contained in the leaves. Spinach helps in improving eye, skin and bone health, controlling hypertension, and reducing cancer risk.
The fiber helps in improving digestive health, preventing constipation. Spinach is also effective in diabetes management and asthma prevention. The micronutrients present in spinach are essential for better immunity.
From a gardener’s point of view, spinach is one of the easiest plants to grow. The seeds have very good germination rate. Left to themselves, spinach plants will reproduce by themselves when the seeds fall to the ground and germinate.
The plants grow very quickly and are ready for harvest 2-3 weeks after germination. There are some worms and insects that love eating spinach, but they can be easily controlled by handpicking or with organic fertilizers.
There are two major types of spinach leaves, smooth and crinkly. And also many variants like Melody, Regal, Olympia, Space, Tyee, Avon, Bloomsdale Longstanding etc. with slightly variations in leaf texture, size and taste.
Propagation is through seeds