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August 2010
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Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) – an edible flowering plant

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is an annual plant and rarely biennial. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. Spinach survives in winter over temperate conditions. It grows to a height of up to 30 cm. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3-4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5-10 mm across containing several seeds. The leaves are alternate, simple, and ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2-30 cm long and 1-15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem.
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A and especially high in lutein. The vitamins present are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, and selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach. It is a source of folic acid (Vitamin B9), and this vitamin was first purified from spinach. To benefit from the folate in spinach, it is better to steam it than to boil it. Boiling spinach for four minutes can halve the level of folate.
It is said that a 180 g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 mg of iron. It has high calcium but the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium, decreasing its absorption. This oxalate is one of the factors for gout and kidney stones. Spinach is an ingredient of one of the most popular tomato juices. Spinach can be harvested over a couple of weeks. Takes up to 45 to 50 days for growth and can be used after.
There are three basic types of spinach:
• Flat/smooth leaf spinach has broad smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy.
• Semi-Savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves.
• Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves.

Growing conditions of Spinach

• Sow Spinach seeds 1/2″ to 1″ apart in rows.
• Cover very lightly, 1/2″ deep, with soil.
• Final spacing of the plants should be 2″ to 3″ apart.
• Water lightly and daily for three to five days.
• If you do heavy watering, it can either wash the seeds out of the soil or push them too deeply into the soil, both conditions of which are detrimental to our needs.
• Provide 12″ between rows. Exposure to full sun is required.
• Needs moisture rich and well drained soil.

Care for Spinach plants

• Needs full sun
• Needs moisture rich and well drained soil
• Cool weather is preferable.
• Keep plants well weeded.
• A healthy dose of fertilizer is preferable.
• Use succession planting.
• If you want to have fresh spinach, do the following: Plant the seeds by sowing in a row or partial rows every two weeks.
• Keep bunnies away from the plants by providing a rabbit fence.
• Apply insecticides to avoid insects.
• Organic sprays are preferable over pesticides.
• To avoid wilting and rotting in hot, humid weather, provide moisture rich environment.
• Plant a crop for spring and early summer harvest.
• Spinach will survive a light frost.

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