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If you can get to April and still have the post Christmas urge to eat healthier, spinach is something that you could easily have growing in a small pot and pick a few leaves from every now and again to add to salads or steam with cabbage / other leaves. It's one of the easiest plants to grow in our climate, as it doesn't really like excessive heat and there isn't much of that in the average UK summertime. I'll aim this review at those who either want to try growing their own, and those who are just interested in eating it and the benefits of having spinach in our diet.
It's a plant, similar to lettuce that prefers mild weather so the best time to plant the seeds is at the end of march, early april. Spinach is a member of the Amaranthacea family, and is found in various forms over a wide swathe of the world. It prefers damp but warm soil, so in the heat of a dry summer the spinach plants get stressed easily and will "bolt" or go to seed - the plant thinks the heat will kill it off so it quickly produces flowers which will spread their seed and ensure the plant's survival. Once a spinach plant has bolted, the leaves taste bitter and aren't as nice so try growing in a cool, slightly shady patch and keep the soil watered.
To stop this happening, keep the soil damp and have it full of rich organic matter - a good garden compost will help. To plant the seeds, prepare an area of ground (or a pot) by mixing in compost and then plant each seed about 3 inches apart and half an inch deep. Keep watered, and within 8 weeks you should be picking spinach leaves. Try to alternate which plants you pick from to allow new leaves to grow in the place of those you've picked. If you grow in rows, keep each row about ten inches apart.
There is a technique called succesional planting where you plant each row 3 weeks apart - this gives you a longer more continual supply of spinach rather than it coming all at once.
BENEFITS OF EATING SPINACH
Far cleverer people than me have studied the properties of spinach and the positive effects on our health that they have. Some of the effects spinach has on us include increasing energy levels, vitality and enriches our blood. This is mainly because spinach is rich in iron and iron has those effects on our bodies. Spinach also contains good amounts of vitamins A, C and K and is known as being a good source of folic acid - desirable for pregnant women. Vitamin K is good for bone strength and is hard to find in the same quantities in other vegetables that spinach has it in.
Try mixing in washed but uncooked spinach leaves with lettuce, pine nuts and olive oil for a super healthy salad. Also, spinach is good as a cooked vegetable substitute for cabbage when trying to get kids to eat greens - mainly thanks to Popeye's love of spinach and the bad reputation cabbage has amongst children.
You can get hold of packs of spinach seeds for less than a pound - some supermarkets have a "grow your own" range of seeds so they aren't difficult to get hold of. If you are a person who eats a lot of shop bought salads, try growing a mixture of spinach and lettuce and you will save a small fortune over spring into autumn. I promise it isn't difficult to grow, just keep the soil moist and out of fiercely hot sunshine and spinach plants will thrive. For it's easiness to grow, cheapness of seeds and health benefits I think five stars is a fair award for spinach.
When I was a little boy, I hated the thought of eating spinach. I had seen it on the Popeye cartoons and it just looked like horrible green sludge in a can. Even as I got into adulthood and everytime someone offered me spinach, it would be this horrible cooked green slime, "erm no thanks, I think I'll pass". Since doing my "lifestyle change" (not a diet), I did some research on spinach, and I found it to be more than just the green slime in Popeye's cans, I found it to be the most magical vegetable ever!
== What is it? ==
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is native to Asia, although we have been growing it over here since around the 14th century. Spinach is one of, if not the healthiest vegetable there is, it is a source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Protein, Calcium, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium and many more, my whole review would consist of one massive list if I were to name them all. The leaves from the spinach plant can either be cooked or eaten raw, both are just as nice, but I do prefer them raw.
== Uses ==
Because I find spinach to be pretty tasteless when cooked, it is easy to smuggle it into any dish really. When cooking, I recommend throwing it in at the last minute, it doesn't take a lot to cook spinach and
you don't want to cook all the goodness out of it. I usually start the day with a mushroom and spinach omelette, lunch I usually have a stir-fry on a bed of raw spinach that has been drizzled with fresh lemon juice (somehow lemon juice and raw spinach go well together), for dinner I sometimes have spinach, green split pea, chick pea and bacon soup, or a homemade curry with spinach included and I usually have a side salad with the magical green leaf too. So there you go, spinach is the main part of my daily food intake.
== Price ==
Prices vary and so do the size of the bags. The bag in my fridge hasn't got any size on it, but I picked it up for £1.00 in Iceland, and it is quite a big bag. Usually you are looking at paying between £1.00 and £1.50 for a bag of spinach, and sometimes you can get it mixed with Rocket (another leafy favourite of mine) and water cress. You usually buy spinach in the refrigerated salad section of the supermarket and it will last in your fridge for about five days, although it's lucky to last two in mine before I need to buy another bag. You can also buy frozen spinach, but I much prefer to buy the fresh stuff (that rule applies with all my vegetables really, it is just personal preference).
== Verdict ==
I can't get enough of the stuff, I usually go through a big bag of spinach every two days. I have even started growing some in my garden, I only planted them a couple of weeks ago and I can see quite a bit of life appearing, so in a few weeks I should have some nice fresh homegrown spinach. This leafy vegetable definitely gets 5/5 from me, just don't overcook it, and you'll be fine. So go out and get yourself some spinach and smuggle it in the kids food, they won't even notice A-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah! (That's my Popeye laugh)
Organic Perpetual or Beet Spinach
Home grown perpetual spinach (Beta vulgaris var cicla) is a very productive crop that is easy to grow, easier than conventional spinach, and delicious. Perpetual Spinach is available into the winter, and will regrow vigourously early the following year, a welcome crop at a time when greens are scarce. See my article on suite101 for ideas on How to Cook Perpetual Spinach .
+++ How to Grow Organic Perpetual Spinach +++
Sow: If you want a summer crop from March to May but this is not the most useful time for a crop of Perpetual Spinach. More useful is the later harvest, from around November to April from seeds sown in July and August.
Harvest: If you pick individual leaves the plant will recover and regenerate more easily. In the spring when the plant starts to bolt, that is to produce spikey flower heads, cut the plant down to just above ground level with shears. The leaves will regrow for another couple of harvests.
Cooked Perpetual Spinach may be frozen, and the picked leaves will keep for a few days in the fridge.
Spinach ( Spinacia oleracea ) is native to Asia and the Indian sub continent. Spinacia oleracea,"spina" in Latin meaning spiny fruit and"oleracea" meaning herbaceous garden herb. It is a member of the Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot) family which also includes Swiss chard and beets. Spain is supposed to be the first European country into which this plant was first introduced.
It is called ' Paalak ' in Northern parts of India and 'Keerai' in South India. It is one of the most popular vegetables across India being consumed on a daily basis.
It is a rich source of Calcium and Iron and vitamins.
There are broadly 3 basic types of spinach, and it was popularised by Popeye the sailor man cartoons, where Popeye becomes ten times stronger after consuming Spinach - which later led to controversies on the subject. According to scientists Spinach though rich in Iron lags behind Broccoli , Cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, which have far more Iron content.
It is fairly easy to grow spinach in your home garden. The only requirement is space... it grows best in cool weather and in partly shady places. It is important to have the soil as rich as possible. The seeds should be sown rather close together in drills about a foot apart. It is very quick growing, maturing within two months, and it can be grown between rows of late growing vegetables; the edible part being the leaves..
After sowing the seeds , press the soil firmly over the seeds and spread them out as they grow. The soil should be frequently stirred and watered regularly. Once the plants grow to a height of 2-3 inches they need to be fed with dressings rich in Nitrate Soda once every fortnight.
In India the farmers growing Spinach in their fields, use home made fertilizer consisting of cow dung, dried rotten leaves , dried Neem leaves which acts as a pesticide and sand mixed in equal proportions..
The early top leaves can be pinched out to ensure a stocky growth.
Spinach can also be grown in pots and large containers.
Spinach is a versatile vegetable that most Indians use for daily cooking. It is used in Dhal, Curries, Parathas, Rotis, Raitas, Salads...
I am sharing one of the most popular Spinach recipes here
Spinach - 2 large bunches
Paneer - 1 pack (cut into cubes)
Onion -1 large chopped
Green chillis - 3 chopped
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric - I/4 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Red chilly powder - half tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
In a pan heat one tbsp oil add half the quantity of chopped Onions, Green chillis, and saute them. Now add the Ginger Garlic paste and fry for a while. Add the washed Spinach without cutting.
Add some water ,cover and let it boil for 2 mints. keep aside and let it cool.
Transfer the cooled spinach into blender with any left over liquid and puree it.
In a flat pan add some more oil and fry the rest of the onions and add the Paneer cubes and saute them till the sides turn golden brown on all sides. Keep them aside.
Now for the final preparation, in a pan heat a little oil, add cumin seeds , 2 broken red chillies and Spinach puree. Add salt, turmeric powder and Gharam masala , Coriander powder and Red chilly powder. Let it simmer for sometime until the oil floats on top. Add the fried Paneer cubes and mix well.
Serve hot with Butter Naan or Jeera Rice or any kind of Rotis.
Alternatively This recipe can be made with Potatoes instead of Paneer. Boil the potatoes and roast them before adding to Paaalak.
Another popular and fairly common recipe ...
1 bunch spinach, chopped
3/4 cup toor dal ( available in all Indian grocers)
2 medium Tomatoes, chopped
1 medium Onion, chopped
2-3 gGeen chilies, sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon Red chili powder
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Gharam masala
For seasoning :
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
a few curry leaves
Juice of one lemon.
Wash the dhal. In a pressure cooker add the dhal, 3 cups of water, Spinach, tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric powder and cook over med-high heat until lentils are very tender . Switch off the stove once the pressure builds up.
In a pan, add some oil and add mustard & cumin seeds. After the mustard starts spluttering, add dry red chillies and curry leaves.Add the onions and fry till it turns brown. Add the Gharam Masala and the Red chilly powder and mix well.Pour the cooked dhal over this. Cover & bring to boil & simmer for 2-3 minute Stir in lemon juice and check salt.
This is normally had with either Plain Rice or Rotis...
spinach is an annual plant that goes to seed after harvest.
it grows upto 30cm tall but you can buy a dwarf variety of this, it does flower but they are not very pritty as they are very small and a greeny yellow colour.
Spinach is a great source of lots of healthy items for you, it contains high levels of iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium and folic acid
spinach is a realy easy plant to grow, you can buy the seeds for around £2 from most garden centers and it grows very quickly, 6 weeks after you planted your seeds you will be ready to harvest your spinach leaves to eat.
You can put spinach pritty much anywhere, it doesnt mind being in shaded areas or direct sunlight but doesnt like it too hot. It grows better in well drained soil and should be planted at least 1 foot apart.
For a good yield you are better off doing two harvests each year, plant your first seeds after the last frost of winter then you can 6 weeks later start by trimming and eating the larger outer leaves, if you leave an inch fron the bottom of the plant it will continue to grow new leaves for you to harvest but about mid july the temperatures will be too hot so you wil be best to plant new seeds at the end of august and harvest these untill the first frosts.
You need to was your spinach well before eating and it can be stored in a freezer for up to 8 months
spinach plants produce there own seeds so you can collect these and use them next time so you wont have to buy any.
If you dont have a big garden you can grow spinach in container tubs very easily aswell.
Before anyone attacks me about putting a recipe review in a plant section, I can't put it in the vegetarian recipe section because I've already done one and when I type one up it replaces the one that I have already posted.
Now on to my Spinach recipe, which despite sounding a bit strange is actually really yummy!
Curried Spinach with Peanut Butter is a Tanzanian Dish
What you will need:
·2 lbs spinach (collards may be substituted)
·1½ oz peanut butter
·2 tsp curry powder
·1 cup coconut milk
·3 Tbsp cooking oil
·1 tsp salt
Boil your tomato for about 40 seconds and then chop it up (preferably peeled but not necessary), alternatively you could use a tin of boiled toms.
Wash your spinach, roll the leaves and chop it up into medium sized pieces and then peel and chop your onion.
Heat up the 3tbsp of oil in a large frying pan, wait until it's heated up a bit and then put in the tomato, onion, salt and curry powder. When the onion has softened up, add the spinach and cook the whole mixture for about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and peanut butter (smooth or crunchy as you prefer), simmer and stir for a few minutes until it looks ready to eat, make sure that the mixture doesn't get stuck to the pan. You could add a very small amount of boiled water from the kettle to keep it less glue like.
You can do all sorts with this dish, I like to add it to a rice and bean dish to add flavour and vary to the meal. Although not the done thing, I've also used it as a rare sandwich filler. Try it in a baguette, you'll be surprised!
All in all, tasty and relatively healthy. I don't have the nutritional data, I've never looked into and couldn't care less - stop whittling about it and get it down you!
When I was a kid I hated spinach I can still hear my mother saying 'It's good for you all greens are good for you!' We used to get it served up at least three times a week, but now I am older and wiser I realise that she was so right and my taste buds are rather partial to it now.
It is full of iron and totally fat free, and it also provides us with Vitamins A C and K
Good old Popeye had the right idea he used to eat cans of the stuff but he would have been wiser to have eaten fresh because when cooked it can taste acidy but fresh leaves are sweet and really nice in a salad.
When buying Spinach check that it is nice and green if it is yellowing around the edges or getting a slimey film on it then it is starting to go rotten. I actually saw some for sale in a supermarket with special offer stickers all over the bags but it was rotten and funnily enough people were actually buying it.
It stays fresh for approximatley five days after it is picked so dont go buying tons of it at a time.
I have found that storing it in the bottom of the fridge without washing it helps it to stay fresher longer and then when I do want to use it I soak the leaves in cool water to get all the soil off.
When I cook it I try to boil it up quickly it only takes a minute I find that if I overcook it then it tastes tart but just right tastes nice and sweet. Now I know why I hated it so much as a kid my Mother used to boil vegetables for hours.
Steaming is a good way to get it just right I add it to the rest of the vegetables about two minutes before serving up but you do need quite a few leaves for one portion because it cooks down to almost nothing.
I add cooked spinach to lasagnes occasionally just for a different taste and parmasan cheese goes really well with this vegetable so it doesnt have to be boring. Another idea is to serve it with smoked haddock now that really brings a nice taste out.
Give it a go because it is so good for growing children and adults of course, cooked correctly it is a very tasty vegetable and very rich in vitamins.
I bought a bag yesterday enough for four servings and it cost me 79p, so that is good value for money.