On Spinach

A month ago, we were under 2 feet of snow with night temperatures in the single digits. This week we garden in short-sleeve shirts and harvest mache, baby lettuce, just-emerging sorrel, baby arugula, escarole and… spinach – lots and lots of spinach. Finally!


The spinach was not planted in the hoophouse but outside. Last spring we simply did not have enough spinach, not having planted any the prior fall. So this past fall, I did 2 separate sowings, a small one in September to give us some fall spinach, and three long rows in November. We covered the bed with wire hoops, and Reemay. The bed was buried under snow for several weeks, the hoops crushing in the process – they’ll have to be reshaped. Yes, the larger leaves of the spinach are somewhat tattered (but fine enough for the chicken who are happy enough for anything green), but the 2nd planting – much smaller plants – did very well and is starting to grow again. Happily so, too. With enough water, that should provide us with spinach through May. Maybe I’ll even have enough to freeze some later this spring.

Fall planted spinach – even in late fall – will overwinter and start to grow strongly again in early March; a feat that late winter planting can never emulate. Time and time again, I have started spinach in March, and hardly get a crop worth my time, and the real estate it occupies.

Fall planted spinach gives! and gives… and gives! I am starting to harvest in earnest now, after desultory pickings throughout the winter. Well, I am actually thinning the bed now, cutting every other plant at soil level. That’s baby spinach for you. I will continue to do that regularly, giving remaining plants more room to grow so that by the end of the season, I’ve got big leaves of spinach.

‘Monstrueux de Viroflay’ is the variety planted… we’ll see how monstrous the leaves really get. It’s planted in good soil, but it’ll need water. Rain is supposed to be on the way, so hopefully that should take care of that for the next few days (yes, it’s dry again, and we could use a little rain for the garden).

What to do with all that spinach?

Salads! with poached eggs or fried eggs; with bacon and diced potatoes; with crumbled blue cheese and thinly sliced shallots; with sautéed onions and steak slices; with red onions and grapefruit; with duck and potatoes fried in duck fat… lots and lots of way to eat spinach in salad.

As a vegetable, quickly sautéed with finely chopped garlic; in stir-fry with other veggies or to finish a stew (as in my Red Cooked Beef With Sweet Potatoes Stew).

In soup: spinach and mushroom soup with garlic bread is one of my favorite soup.

If you have not planted spinach last fall, make a note to have a bed ready for October spinach planting. Spring-planted spinach is disappointing, fall-planted spinach feels like a miracle on March 10.

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