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There are a few varieties of winter spinach including Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach, Giant Winter Spinach and Tyee Winter Spinach. These types of spinach withstand cold temperatures better than other spinach varieties. They produce tough, crinkly leaves which are hearty in flavor. The darker leaves and more concentrated flavor are caused by the plants converting starches into sugar during freezing temperatures. The spinach converts the starches into sugar to survive during the cold months.
Winter spinach should be planted in fertile, near neutral soil and enriched with manure, compost(goes to compost article) or organic fertilizer. Jumpstart winter spinach production by spraying the greens with diluted fish emulsion. Growing and harvesting will depend on your planting zone. In northern planting zones winter spinach can be planted in August and harvested in October. In southern planting zones, these winter greens can be planted in late September and harvested in February or March. Due to the diminished sunlight in winter, these types of spinach grow slower than when planted in early spring; however, planting spinach in winter will yield a sweeter, richer flavor.
Sow spinach seeds about an inch apart. Crowded spinach tends to stay wet for extended periods, making these winter greens susceptible to downy mildew and other diseases. Once the seedlings have sprouted and produced three sets of leaves thin the greens to about 6 inches. Well-thinned spinach enables better air circulation and leaf drying.Be sure to plant spinach seeds early enough in the season so they reach maturity prior to the first frost.
It is important to keep the soil moist, but to avoid garden overwatering(going to Garden Watering Tips article). For optimal results consider covering your winter spinach with floating row covers. These garden covers help insulate and protect against extreme weather elements and garden pests.
Due to the deep veins and crinkly structure of winter spinach leaves dirt is easily trapped. Prior to eating or cooking winter spinach be sure to thoroughly rinse the leaves. A great method to ensure dirt or sand particles are removed is to submerge the leaves in a container or bucket of water and move them about to loosen dirt. The particles will fall to the bottom while the spinach stays afloat. Once the winter spinach is completely rid of dirt and sand, use them in hearty winter stews, salads, spinach dips or make a batch of baked spinach chips. Any of the winter greens you don’t use right away should be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
You can freeze spinach to use in various dishes throughout the year. Freezing spinach can be done in one of three ways: blanching, steaming or freezing spinach raw. On average, frozen spinach will last about 12 months assuming it is void of light and oxygen. Please remember to wash spinach thoroughly prior to freezing. Read below for instructions on how to properly freeze spinach.
Spinach is extremely nutrient rich, rendering it one of the very best super foods. Spinach can be added to virtually any dish for an extra boost of powerful nutrients. Grow your own winter spinach for the freshest, nutrient rich vegetable all winter long to use fresh or frozen.