I’m Strong To The Fin-ich ‘Cause I Eats Me Spinach

Popeye made spinach famous.

Says Popeye, the sailor man.

What an icon!  Popeye helped to popularize a vegetable that none of us liked as kids.  But, we felt, that if it made Popeye strong, maybe it would do the same for us, too!  So, when it ended up on our plates, we ate it.

 

Iran May Have Invented Spinach

Ruins of Persepolis, capital of ancient Persia.

 

Of course, Iran was called ancient Persia at the time – way back in 550 B.C.  It took a thousand years before it was cultivated in China and an additional 700 to 800 years before it was introduced in Europe.

 

 

 

Spinach – A Low Calorie Veggie With A Big Nutrient Punch

I could list all the nutrients but, suffice it to say, it has everything a body needs – kind of like the old milk commercial – “…it does a body good.”

And, frequent intake of this healthy, fiber-rich veggie helps folks with diabetes, lowers cancer risk, reduces blood pressure and even slows down the development of asthma.

Popeye really knew what he was talking about. Spinach is truly beneficial for health and well-being!

 

Boy, I Sure Can Eat Spinach In A Bunch Of Different Ways!

I can’t count on both hands and both feet the number of ways I eat spinach.  It’s great in salads and enjoyable sautéed or stir fried with onions and garlic.

Spinach omeletteSpinach pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek spanakopitaSpinach dip

 

 

 

 

 

 

It isn’t a holiday without having a big batch of my notorious spinach dip.  It’s good anytime of the year.  Let me know in the comments below or email me, jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com, if you would like the recipe.

When I was growing up, my mother made spinach loaf.  It basically had the same ingredients as a meat loaf – minus the meat.  One extra ingredient was added – peanut butter.  As a kid, that was about the only way I could actually enjoy eating spinach.

 

So, Do You Think We Can Grow It?

Well, most certainly, we can!  I don’t grow just any old spinach plant.  Spinach plants love cooler weather but some varieties will actually thrive in heat and humidity.  These are the varieties I choose.  But, I only buy Spinach Seeds From Trusted Sources.

Malabar Spinach – This is a heat tolerant, fast growing vine with shiny thick leaves and they taste great raw or cooked.  The flower structures are beautiful and the bees love them!  Malabar spinach reaches full maturity in about 90 days.  This is a good candidate for a trellis to keep the plants organized and allow easy leaf picking.

Space Hybrid Spinach – A spinach with smooth soft curved leaves that also grows well during the summer and is slow to bolt.  You’ll be getting leaves in 60 days or less.  It freezes well when blanched and vacuum packed.

Giant Noble Spinach – Super large smooth leaves that are exceptionally crisp when eaten raw in salads and smooth as cream when stir fried.  These are not quite as heat tolerant as the Malabar or Space Hybrid varieties.  But, they do produce a lot of leaves for harvest.  Leaves are ready for pickin’ in less than 50 days.

All 3 of these spinach varieties have moderately smooth leaves which make them very easy to clean prior to use.  I particularly don’t care much for the more crinkly spinach, normally called “Savoy” spinach, since they are harder to clean and have, in my opinion, a bit more pungency in their flavor.

 

Put The Seeds In The Ground

Many of my vegetables go through the indoor germination, seedling transplant, and hardening off phases before finally getting to move into the garden.

But, with leafy greens especially, I plant the seeds directly into the garden.

If I want to grow spinach both in the spring and in the fall, I will start my spring batch about a month before the last frost.  Otherwise, I’ll wait until after the last frost, usually in mid-April to get them started.

The planting process is pretty simple and straightforward…

  • Till the soil to at least 6 inches deep.
  • Make a trench in the loose soil a couple inches deep.
  • Add a 1 inch layer of Jim’s 50/50 mixture (garden dirt + potting soil and add 2 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer, all mixed in a 5 gallon bucket).
  • Place the seeds an inch or two apart in the row. Cover with a half inch of Jim’s 50/50 mixture.
  • Firm and water lightly. Make sure plants get about an inch of water per week.
  • Keep the rows 2 feet apart.

Spinach seedlings

  • Look for seedlings to start popping up in a week or two. When seedlings are an inch or two high, thin the row and keep the strongest ones – spacing them about 7 inches apart.
  • Every couple of weeks, side dress with 10-10-10 fertilizer – about 2 tablespoons per 10 feet.
  • Keep the weeds away since they compete with the plants for water, space and nutrients. Mulching helps a lot.

 

When Can We Harvest Spinach Leaves?

Spinach leaves ready for harvest.

Any leaf greater than 3 inches can be harvested – but, it doesn’t hurt to pick smaller ones if you have a dire need for some spinach dip!

When the plant starts to bolt (i.e. seed stalks start to develop), uproot the plant and strip all the leaves before they start to turn bitter.

Simple as that!

 

Pests And Diseases

 

Pests

Spinach caterpillar

 

Leaf miteaphid

 

 

 

 

 

 

A number of different caterpillars love spinach but can stunt the plant’s growth.

Wireworms, which are the larvae of beetles chew on seeds and roots and, as a minimum will impede plant growth.  Worst case?  They will kill the plant.  TIP:  Wireworms love potatoes the most.  So, peel a one, cut it in several pieces, and bury the pieces along the row of spinach plants.  Mark the locations and periodically check them.  If wireworms are munching on them, toss the pieces out of the gardens, along with the wireworms and plant another piece in the same spot. 

Almost microscopic in size, crown mites feed on spinach leaves – leaving little holes – distorting them.

As an enemy of most garden veggies, aphids suck the fluid out of the leaves and stalk leaving behind a sticky mess that can also cause a fungus disease.

Last but not least are the leafminers that look like tiny flies.  They lay eggs that hatch into larvae.  The larvae tunnel through the plant and chew it up from the inside out.

There are some plants that repel wireworms and aphids.  Clover will send wireworms packing.  Chives and Coriander (Cilantro) will chase away aphids.

See “Plants That Repel Bad Bugs And Attract Good Bugs” for more details.

Most of the time, the damage by these critters is minimal.  But, if they get out of hand, grab a big container of insecticide/pesticide and go to war with them.  That’s all I can say.

 

Diseases

The most prevalent diseases are Downy Mildew and Fusarium Wilt.  Attack both of these with a good fungicide if you spot them early in their development.  If either of these diseases overtakes the plant, pull the entire plant out of the garden so it doesn’t affect the others and toss it in the trash.  Don’t throw it in your compost pile or toss it somewhere in your yard.  The fungus spores will travel great distances carried by the wind.  Then, the diseases will revisit your garden sooner than you think.

 

 Finishing With Popeye

Since Popeye and spinach go hand in hand, it is only fitting to finish this with a couple of Popeye song verses I learned as a youngster.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I live in a garbage can.

I eats all the worms

And spits out the germs.

I’m Popeye the sailor man. (toot-toot)

==============================

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I never stepped foot on land.

I like to go swimmin’

With them mermaid women.

I’m Popeye the sailor man. (toot-toot)

 

So, let’s grow some fresh garden Spinach and please add a comment or shoot me an email, jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com.

 

Jim, the Life Long Gardener

2 thoughts on “If Popeye Eats Spinach, It Must Be Good!

  1. Sujanb3 Reply

    I must say that, after reading this page, I have really gotten to know more about spinach.

    I don’t have a garden but I try to grow vegetables in containers on my balcony. Last season I planted summer spinach. By the way, I didn’t know it was also called Malabar Spinach. This is very different from other varieties. It thrives very fast and took quite a lot of space in my balcony. The results were good and I had plenty of harvest. Here, in my part of the world, it can’t be eaten raw because of its strong smell. We enjoy the juicy stem more than the leaves.

    Can you suggest any other variety of spinach that I can grow in my balcony pots?

    Regards,

    Sujan

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Suhan,

      I am happy that you have learned a few things about spinach through my article!

      You have to be careful about Malabar Spinach.  Since it is a vining plant, it can literally take over a small back porch or balcony even when grown in a container.

      I’m wondering what brand of seeds you are using since your spinach leaves are so bitter.  The Malabar Spinach seeds I use produce leaves that have a mild Swiss chard-like taste.

      I have not heard about eating the stems.  I will have to give it a try!

      Jim

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