Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spinach the Size of Rhubarb

I love spinach salad (especially with this dressing) but our growing season for spinach can be problematic. High-desert spring weather can go from freezing cold to wilting heat in the space of a day (and back again - snow in June isn't completely unheard of). It's a delicate balancing act to get spring-seeded spinach big enough to pick before it bolts and starts sending up a seed stalk.

So instead, I sow my little spinach patch in the late fall when I plant my garlic and shallots. I like Bloomsdale Long-Standing, both for its ability to withstand both heat and cold, and for the meaty, smooth, easy-to-clean leaves. With luck, the seeds lie dormant until late February, when the melting snows and lengthening days make the perfect conditions for germination. I've been eating spinach salads for weeks now. In the photo, one plant that was too close to the edge of the protecting wire cage is a bit bird-pecked, but the rest are still doing great. On down the soaker hose behind are garlic and then shallots. Following the hose around to the left are some of the spring-seeded peas, with onion plants further back.

Every week, I cut a plant or two down to a couple of inches. Washed in a sink full of cool water, picked through and stems removed, the leaves keep nicely for days, wrapped in a clean cotton dish towel and then tied up in a plastic grocery bag. This past week we've had cold and rainy weather, so the spinach has just gone crazy. I'm picking spinach leaves the size of rhubarb! Not only do I have enough for salads daily (one leaf can make a salad), but this year, even enough to freeze. I dunk the leaves into boiling water for just a minute to blanch them, then cool in a sinkful of cold water and drain. most of my spinach recipes call for half a 10-oz package of frozen spinach, so I pack a 1/2 cup measure heaping full, make that into a little spinach patty, and put them on a cookie sheet. Frozen on the sheet, each disk is then wrapped in plastic wrap and all stored in a gallon freezer bag. This way, I can easily pull out just enough for a recipe for the two of us all next winter.


frogtailrae said...

Dude! That's some gigantic spinach!!! YUM :-)

Anonymous said...

Spinach is not one of my most reliable crops. I have never tried sowing it in the fall like you do. I think I will though. This year's crop is small and already going to seed because we went from jacket weather to HOT with nothing in between almost overnight! I have never even seen spinach as big as you are growing!!!