‘There’s a spinach jungle in the garden!’ Lewis shouted at the weekend.
Three-year-olds can be remarkably accurate in their summaries at times. There is indeed a spinach jungle in one of my raised beds. The perpetual spinach has gone to seed and is a good 5 to 6 feet high. So I took the plunge, made a final harvest, and yanked up the plants ready for composting down.
Whilst doing this, I uncovered the plant label I had stuck into the ground, next to my spinach row. On the tab, I’d written ‘6/7’, the day I sowed the seeds. Ten months ago!
Obviously I haven’t been harvesting all that time, as the plants would have taken 6 weeks or so to be big enough to eat their leaves at that time of year, but this reminded me what an ace vegetable perpetual spinach is. It is one of the longest-lasting plants available to an allotmenteerist, and if you time sowings right you can harvest for pretty much most of the year.
One of the reasons for this is perpetual spinach’s darn hardiness. It’s like nothing can kill it. I’ve never known such reliable veg. Come snow, wind, rain or shine, perpetual spinach wins through. I’ve neglected to water it for weeks, left plants uncovered in the snow, and transplanted the seedlings several times in a state of indecision, and still, perpetual spinach grows on.
Mainstay of Winter Eating
Veg like perpetual spinach will often take a back seat behind more glamorous summer options like tomatoes and beans, but they form the mainstay of winter eating once the long, warm days have passed. If you’re looking to save money or enjoy fresh harvests 52 weeks of the year, it is important to spend time nurturing the winter crops too.
Therefore, pop in an early spring sowing and then another one in later summer, and you’ll be enjoying these tasty, healthy, and versatile leaves virtually all year round. The seeds are dead simple to sow as well – they’re big, and germinate with no fuss. The only thing I’d consider doing to help them is covering the row in multipurpose compost rather than your normal soil in dry conditions so that it is easier for the seeds to break through.
Once germinated, keep the seedlings watered during dry weather. If germination is patchy, you can fill the gaps by transplanting seedlings from densely germinated areas. As long as the seedlings are watered and the slugs kept at bay then they will take and grow on happily.
Harvesting and Eating
Perpetual spinach is a cut and come again variety, so make sure you keep picking the leaves whilst they are fairly young and tender. This is will ensure you get the best tasting leaves, as well as encouraging continued cropping.
You can do pretty much anything with it in the kitchen, from steaming as a side to topping pizzas, folding into curries, and cooking in quiches.
Perhaps the best use however is the Greek dish spanakopita, sandwiching the spinach in between layers of feta and flaky pastry. It’s a little involving, but a fab way to enjoy this completely ace and very underrated vegetable.