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Originally from Persia, it is a very strong tasting vegetable and not to everybody's taste. For a milder tasting version, try chard leaves. There are both Summer and Winter varieties of Spinach. While Spinach is rich in many vitamins, A, B2, C, cooking causes the oxalic acid to form insoluble compounds with calcium and iron, and thus not being absorbed by the body.

There is also an unrelated species known as New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioids, which can be used as a Spinach substitute. It it an annual but can be picked well into the Autumn, and is more adapted to growing in hot and dry conditions.

For Summer Spinach, sow the seeds in March to May, 1 cm deep and 7 cm apart. Thin if necessary. They should be ready to pick from June to October.

For Winter Spinach, sow the seeds in August and September, 1 cm deep and 7 cm apart. They should be ready to pick from October to the following Spring with some cloche protection in the North of the UK.

For New Zealand Spinach, sow the seeds in May, 1 cm deep and 7 cm apart with cloche protection as it is frost tender.

Pests and diseases. Take protective measures against slugs and snails. To avoid downy mildew, choose resistant varieties.

Harvesting. Pick the individual leaves while they are still young and tender.

Suggested varieties of Summer Spinach.

Sigmaleaf. Long cropping and slow to bolt.

Suggested varieties of Winter Spinach.

Sigmaleaf. Can be sown as a Winter variety.

Suggested variety of New Zealand Spinach.

The plants are as the type, and are dwarf, rambling with fleshy leaves, and will even grow in sandy soils.

SPINACH  (Spinacia  oleracia)