Buying local spinach is a great choice because like most leafy green vegetables, spinach does not last long. Buying it locally means fresher spinach that lasts longer in your fridge, with more nutrients.
Raw local spinach has a delicate taste and texture that is great in salads. It tastes a bit sweet, with a grassy flavor that works well on sandwiches as well.
Cooked local spinach is more acidic or bitter, with a stronger flavor. Baby spinach will have a milder flavor. Cooked spinach is more compact and chewy, and great as a side dish or blended into a lasagna or quiche.
Different greens have different textures, and spinach is not crunchy like lettuce, or tough like kale. The lack of bitterness in fresh local spinach is welcome in salads.
Growing Local Spinach
Spinach is a great spring or fall crop. You will see it in the markets soon, both as baby leaves and full grown spinach. There are spinach-like plants that grow in summer as well, and you may see them later on.
Local spinach comes in flat or curly varieties. Flat leafed spinach has the mildest flavor, and is often sold as baby spinach.
Spinach takes about six weeks to grow from seed to harvest. It can tolerate frost, and is easy to grow. If you are interested in gardening, you can’t go wrong with spinach as long as you grow it when it is cold. You can cut leaves off as it grows rather than harvest the whole plant at once.
Farmers with greenhouses or who start seeds indoors will have local spinach available soon at the markets. It will be great to see fresh greens available!
Types of Local Spinach
As stated above, spinach comes in flat and curly varieties. They are separated into Flat or Smooth Leaf, Savoy (the curly type), and Semi-Savoy, which is a mix of the two.
Savoy Spinach has thick crinkled leaves that are harder to clean. Savoy has a more distinctive flavor and texture, and is more bitter than other types. You can cook it for hours without losing the shape.
Semi-Savoy is popular in home gardens. Leaves are less crinkly and the leaves are more straight, so cleaning is easier. It also has more flavor than flat spinach.
Smooth Leafed Spinach is the easiest to clean and the type used most in processed vegetables. It grows quickly, and is also popular in gardens.
There are other types of greens out there that are very spinach-like. New Zealand spinach has a similar flavor and texture to spinach, and grows well in early summer.
Malabar spinach is not spinach. It is a vine, and grows well in hot summers. Fresh leaves don’t taste like spinach, but cooked ones do. Raw Malabar spinach is said to taste of citrus and pepper.
Preserving Local Spinach
Like many fresh greens, spinach doesn’t last long. The leaves are sensitive to ethylene gas, so don’t store them with apples, melons or tomatoes. The fresher the spinach, the longer it will last.
Keep spinach dry in the fridge to have it last longer. Wash it and dry it well, or wait to wash before eating. Wrap it in a dry towel and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Spinach is a great green to freeze. Frozen spinach can be used in many cooked dishes later. Chop it, blanch it (to retain color), dry, and freeze in containers. Remove as much air as possible from the spinach, and it will last up to six months.
Local Spinach Recipes
With its mild flavor, local spinach is great added to many dishes. Raw, it is fabulous in salads, or added to sandwiches, or a cold pasta dish.
Spinach goes well in sauces, dips, on pizza, quesadillas, or even in smoothies. Cooked spinach pairs well with cheese, garlic, and eggs.
Featuring both spring spinach and spring strawberries, Spinach Strawberry Salad is a delicious way to celebrate the end of winter.
Spinach Lasagna is a favorite for many. If you canned any tomatoes last year, you too could be making homemade local spinach lasagna soon! Spanikopita, or Greek Spinach Pie, is also a great way to combine cheese, spinach, and carbs.
Spinach Quiche aka Quiche Florentine, is a classic French dish that uses eggs, spinach, cheese, and pastry crust. It freezes well too!
Did You Know?
Florentine refers to dishes prepared with spinach, in the style of Florence, Italy. Allegedly, when Catherine de’ Medici came to France from Florence, she loved spinach and wanted it in her meals. Thus, French foods named Florentine usually have spinach in them.
Spinach has more iron in it than red meat in the same serving size. However, we can’t absorb that iron well. Adding something with vitamin C, like lemon juice, will allow us to absorb more.