You will have heard (maybe from the lips of the legendary PopEye) that spinach is super high in iron. This, and the rumor that a scientist put the decimal place in the wrong spot thus multiplying the iron content by ten, both appear to be unsubstantiated and probably false. However, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. It is also tasty and versatile and can be used from smoothies to stir fries to salads. Oh, and its easy to grow!
It is believed that the first spinach grew in Persia. In the Middle Ages it then moved east to Nepal and at the same time was introduced to Sicily. Clever irrigation methods made this possible and its journey continued until it came to the notice of the ruling classes in Florence. From there the young Catherine de Medici took it to Frnace when she was married to Henry II, King of France. All this was playing to spinaches strenghts as it much prefers a cooler climate than the heat of Persia.
So spinach is a cool-weather crop. It doesn't like daytime temperatures above 24 degrees C (75 degrees F). Good moist, sandy soil is best, encouraging rapid growth. When temperatures soar and daylight increases (as in the summer months), the plants will bolt and go to seed. Which is why it is ideal to plant it a little later in the year to avoid having to watch over it for problems.
Sowing & Harvesting
Sow your seeds directly outside in their final positions from March to August. Sow them in shallow lines quite thinly. Cover them with poly tunnels or cloches to protect them and to encourage growth, you may also need a Slug-Buster. If you don't have a large garden then spinach will also thrive in a container. Choose a Shallow vegetable planter -as spinach doesn't 't have long roots - and plant thinly exactly as you would outside.
As the seedlings appear, thin them out to about 6-8” 15-20cm apart. You can pick the smaller more tender leaves when they are about 3” 7cm long and use them in salads, anything bigger than that should be cooked for a short amount of time and be eaten as a hot vegetable.
Keep picking the leaves so that a) they don’t run to seed and b) they keep on growing.
Perpetual Spinach is the one that I always plant as you only need to plant one lot and it lasts for months and months, sometimes even years. Very easy. Perpetual spinach is not actually spinach, it is actually a chard (beet family) but looks and is eaten in exactly the same way. Well worth planting for a regular supply.
It does require some maintenance as trimming the leaves frequently helps improve the flavour of Perpetual Spinach.