Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is in most cases an annual plant that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. It is a leafy vegetable, mostly grown for its green, vitamin-rich leaves. People love to use these leaves in salads and cooking. We can consume spinach leaves raw or boiled. Spinach is well known for the nutrition benefits that offers to the human body. It is a vegetable rich in many nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, iron and calcium. There is a great number of people, especially in Asia, who like to consume it fresh in salads. Consumers also include spinach in other foods too, such as soups and sandwiches. In some countries, like Greece or other Mediterranean countries, people prefer to eat spinach mixed with rice.
We can divide spinach in three basic types;
- Savoy. It has dark, curly leaves. The plants are encouraged to grow upright. This is the most common type of spinach that we can find in supermarkets, usually in fresh bundles.
- Flat or smooth leaf spinach. This type has smooth leaves. This type of spinach is more suitable for processing. The plant does not grow upright, but is rather encouraged to develop a great leaf surface per plant.
- Semi-savoy. This is a hybrid type that normally has semi wrinkled leaves. It targets both markets, fresh and processing.
Spinach is a plant that generally prefers cool weather to grow. It can grow well in the average soil, but it will thrive in soil rich in organic matter. We can start growing spinach during fall, when the weather is cool enough. We can also grow spinach during spring, but we need special handling. Spinach is a cold resistant plant that can normally grow well in temperatures of 50-70 °F degrees (10-21 °C). However, its growth accelerates in temperatures from 54 to 63 °F (12-17 °C) Spinach is a quick maturing crop. It takes approximately 45 to 90 days from planting to harvesting. However, this depends on the variety and market (fresh versus processing spinach, one cut versus multiple harvesting sessions etc.) and also on the time of the year we decide to grow it. The plant consists of roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Spinach height can reach 11 inches (30 cm) or more.
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