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Spinach is one of the most cultivated leafy vegetables in the world; it is an annual herbaceous plant, or rarely biennial, belonging to the family of the amaranthacee. It produces small clumps of leaves arranged in a basal rosette, dark green, triangular in shape, with fleshy stem and smooth, or blistered, page, depending on the species; when the climate becomes dry or very long the plant tends to develop an erect stem, on which some small yellow or green flowers develop. In conjunction with flowering and the consequent production of flowers, the foliage thickens and changes flavor, so it is convenient to harvest the plant before the flowering begins, and cultivate it in order to remove this eventuality.

Growing spinach

Spinach is a very popular and requested leafy vegetable throughout the year, even if they are considered a mainly autumnal and winter food.
They are characterized by large, thick, but very soft, dark green leaves that can be eaten both cooked and raw. They are very appreciated both for their unmistakable taste and for the great content in mineral salts, vitamin C, A and folic acid.
As everyone knows, they have a good iron content, which is less available to our body than is found in foods of animal origin. However, lemon juice, rich in both vitamin C and citric acid, can help our digestive system absorb it better.

Type of plant herbaceous, annual or biennial
Height from 15 to 30 cm
Culture easy
Water requirement medium-high
Growth rapid
Propagation seed
Rusticitа up to -6 ° / -10 ° c
Exposure sun-shade
use vegetable garden, pots
Soil rich, clayey, calcareous, fresh
Distance between rows 20-25 cm
Distance on the rows 10 cm

How spinach is grown in the garden

Spinach has been cultivated in Europe for centuries, where it was introduced by the Arabs, given that in Asia these plants were spontaneous; nowadays therefore dozens of cultivars are available, with large, small, thin, thick, smooth, blistered leaves. The choice of cultivar also depends on the period in which spinach is desired to be grown, as some cultivars are particularly suitable for spring cultivation, others for winter cultivation; these plants have a short vegetative cycle, lasts about 40-60 days from the day of sowing to the day of harvest.
They settle in a well-worked plot, enriched with manure, and with a soft and light, well-drained soil; they prefer semi-shaded positions, since drought and strong insolation tend to favor flowering, with consequent loss of the crop.
Spinach is sown directly at home, by spreading it or in rows, remembering to thin out the sprouted seedlings, to avoid producing excessively clumped branches.
Sowing takes place in spring (March-April) or in late summer (late August-September), choosing in each season the most suitable varieties among those available; often the sowing takes place to climb, so as to extend the harvesting period until the summer.
Many varieties of spinach they do not fear the cold excessively, so it is convenient to use them as autumn and winter vegetables in the garden, as a cultivation next to summer vegetables, such as tomatoes or aubergines.
As soon as they are sown, they are abundantly watered, and the soil is kept moist until harvesting; the climate is generally favorable to spinach cultivation, in case of prolonged drought it is good to water regularly, without excessively soaking the soil.
The harvest takes place after 40-60 days, when the whole head has developed fleshy and large leaves, or the larger leaves are collected as needed, or it is collected by cutting the young leaves, to be eaten raw. The head is collected by cutting it at the collar.
In the regions of northern Italy it may happen to have to cover the plots cultivated with spinach in the cold months, to prevent them from freezing, but in general the rustic varieties can withstand some brief frosts.

Spinach characteristics

The spinach It is a leafy vegetable, about 30 cm high with leaves 20 to 40 cm long, also depending on the variety and the period of cultivation. These are lanceolate, shiny and thick, but at the same time extremely tender. They grow as a rosette, then the larger ones on the outside and smaller and smaller towards the center. The root is taproot, red in color.
It is a dioecious plant: there are specimens that carry only female flowers and others that bear only male ones. The female flowers are in small groups, the male ones, on the contrary, are arranged in spikes. Both, however, are greenish-yellow.

Exposure and climate for spinach

Spinach can be grown practically at any time of the year, clearly modifying the exposure and partly the cultivation treatments
He particularly appreciates a shaded and cool situation during the summer, while, from autumn to the middle of spring it is good to reserve a sunnier and warmer area for him. The cold, especially for the already well-established seedlings, is absolutely not a problem, given that, depending on the varieties, it can withstand and grow even with temperatures from -6 ° to -10 ° C.
However, in the North and in the Apennine areas, cultivation in greenhouses is recommended during the most rigid months.

Origin and history of spinach

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family. It is most probably native to the Middle East, particularly from Syria or south-western Asia.
It was brought to Europe by the Arabs, probably during the dominion of the Iberian peninsula, around 1000 AD From the thirteenth century it is also attested in France. In Italy, however, it was almost certainly known even earlier, thanks to Arab rule in our southern regions.
Its popularity over the centuries has only grown. It became even better known and recommended when it became the favorite food of Popeye. However, it must be pointed out that the belief that spinach is particularly rich in iron is partly to be debunked: it spread, in fact, following a transcription error in the nutritional tables. In reality there are other plants capable of offering much more, in particular most dry vegetables.


To always have seedlings ready for harvesting it is strongly advisable to devote yourself to scaling, generally every 15-20 days.
For spring and summer harvesting, from February to mid-May, for winter harvest, from mid-August to November.
The furrows must be about 20 cm apart and at most 2 deep. We distribute the seeds and cover them with a light layer of soil, helping ourselves with the back of the rake. We nebulize abundantly avoiding that the water moves earth and seeds. For 10 square meters of cultivation serve from 16 to 30 g of seeds.
Germination takes place under normal conditions in about ten days. After reaching the fourth leaf, the seedlings must be thinned leaving one every 10 cm.
During the winter, especially in the North, it is advisable at least for the first stages of cultivation, to cover the area with a plastic tunnel so that the small spinaches are protected from frost.

Land for spinach

Spinach gives its best in medium-textured soils, but also in clay and in any case rich in humus and organic substance. Land with good football is also appreciated. It is extremely important that the substrate is always able to retain a certain degree of humidity. The drought in fact heavily influences the timing of the seeding.

Approaches and partnerships

Thanks to its rapid growth and the overall content that it occupies, spinach lends itself very well to being cultivated among the rows of other, slower growing vegetables, such as beans and peas. These, moreover, during the summer months, help the soil to remain fresh, thanks to the shadow cast by their leaves.
Other crops that go well together are lettuce, chicory, strawberry, celery and turnip.
Being a plant very greedy for nitrogen it is advisable to wait at least four years before replacing it in the same area.

Crop care

Fertilization spinach is particularly voracious in terms of nitrogen. However, it is necessary to avoid as much as possible to massively add this element, either through compost or through synthetic products. The plant, in fact, has a marked tendency to accumulate a large amount of nitrates at the level of the leaves: these compounds are, unfortunately, very harmful to health.
Generally 10-20 kg of manure or compost are sufficient for 10 square meters. It should be buried during soil preparation or, better yet, during the previous crop.

Fertilization for spinach

Spinach is particularly voracious in terms of nitrogen. However, it is necessary to avoid as much as possible to massively add this element, either through compost or through synthetic products. The plant, in fact, has a marked tendency to accumulate a large amount of nitrates at the level of the leaves: these compounds are, unfortunately, very harmful to health.
Generally 10-20 kg of manure or compost are sufficient for 10 square meters. It should be buried during soil preparation or, better yet, during the previous crop.


The spinach requires frequent irrigation and in any case commensurate with the climate. It is absolutely necessary to avoid that the soil dries up between one operation and the next. This would stimulate the seedlings to go to seed, making the edible parts less palatable.
To reduce watering, it is always advisable to mulch the foot of the specimens abundantly, with leaves, straw or hay. In this way we will counter the evaporation and that area will always remain rather cool.
A good mulch can also help to avoid the occurrence of weeds, which will still be avoided by engaging with frequent hoeing of the surrounding soil.
We regularly check the plants in order to promptly eliminate yellow, sick or damaged leaves (which could compromise the entire specimen).

The spinach in the diet

Urban legends tell that spinach contains more iron than meat, further urban legends also tell that this information was caused by an error in the transcription of the amount of iron contained in spinach by a single scientist.
Likely that there is something true in such legends, in fact spinach are very rich vegetables of iron (compared to other vegetables) and of mineral salts, vitamins and fibers; as is the case for most of the iron contained in vegetables, unfortunately also that of spinach is poorly bioavailable, which means that it is unlikely to be absorbed by our body. To this fact we add that many recipes based on spinach accompany them with butter, milk and cheese, further decreasing the availability of the iron contained in it.
Spinach is certainly a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, and mineral salts, it is therefore much healthier to consume them raw, in salads, or after a short cooking, in a pan or in a microwave or steam; the preservation of the frozen product, and the consequent prolonged cooking of the spinach to boil it, makes most of the vitamins and minerals a mere memory.
So to better exploit all the useful substances present in spinach it is good to avoid adding milk, butter or cheese, and consume them raw or briefly scalded with steam.
We all remember Bracciodiferro, the cartoon that indicated in the spinach the source of the force of Popeye, the gracilino sailor, who thanks to the spinach in jar became almost a superhero; perhaps spinach cannot give us all the iron of which urban legends tell, but surely they are a healthy vegetable, available fresh almost all year long; and Popeye can invite some children who do not like vegetables to make more consumption.

Diseases and parasites of spinach

Spinach is frequent prey to slugs and snails. To avoid significant damage we can set up natural barriers (spreading wood ash, coffee grounds or egg shells). The beer-based traps are also excellent.
Among the insects, the spinach fly is quite frequent and feeds on the sugary liquids produced by the flowers. The females, then, lay the eggs on the inferior page, from which the larvae come out (that feed on the most tender leaves). It can be prevented and treated with contact insecticides and ingestion.
Among the cryptogams we point out the spinach downy mildew: it manifests itself with large convergent chlorotic zones, of reddish brown color, followed by a feltre mold which brings the leaf to desiccation. We must prevent specific products and avoid wetting the leaves as much as possible.

Variety of spinach

The varieties of spinach can essentially be divided into three groups:
- Spring with smooth leaves
- Winter with bullous leaves
- Summer of New Zealand
However, it must be pointed out that the latter, in reality, is a totally different plant, but that it has a similar taste to the s.
Some very popular varieties are: the winter giant, the Castelnuovo hedgehog, the matador, the blackbird, Ballet, Eagle, Emilia, Goya, Tornado, Chica.

Spinach collection and storage

The harvest takes place from 6 to 8 weeks after sowing, in spring-summer. In autumn and winter, however, we must wait at least 12 weeks.
The specimens born from the end of summer onwards, however, generally give more than a harvest, since they manage to push back from the base. During the warm months, however, the plants run out quickly and rarely it is possible to make more than one harvest.
We proceed by picking up the amount of leaves we need each time: from spring to autumn the whole plant can be torn off, including the root. From autumn, instead, it is advisable to take each single leaf starting from the outer ones and sparing the central bud, which will return to push back.
The ideal is to always use sharp or clean scissors or a knife.
Every 10 square meters of cultivation, 20 to 30 kg of leaves can be harvested.

Spinach: Conservation

Spinach can be eaten fresh, either raw (the tenderest and smallest leaves) or cooked.
It is however also possible to preserve them by freezing them.
A good method is to boil them lightly in water for about two minutes, and then stop cooking with ice. At that point you can put them in individual bags and then put them in the freezer. We always leave a little water so that they are not too dry when we have to use them.
They are kept for about a year.
Watch the video



from February to May - from August to November
collection from October to June
weeks before harvest in spring-summer 8-10
weeks before harvest in autumn-winter 12