This chapter is for the dedicated spinach lover, who wants a spinach or spinach alternative every week of the year.
Spinach is one of our staple fresh crops and normally we will have it in abundance all year round, but we do freeze some for mid-winter. Unfortunately true spinach doesn't do well in mid-winter and summer, so for a year round harvest you need to use some alternatives, that can be substituted in any recipe and often taste as good or better.
A bowl of field bean tops and a few varieties of true spinach in April
The best alternatives are New Zealand spinach and Aisan spinach in summer and Field beans in winter and early spring.
However perpetual spinach, chard and the Asian greens, Pac Choi, Tatsoi are also worth considering, I will cover these in the chapter on stir-fry mixes and the chapter on smoothie's.
Red Kitten, true spinach under a cloche in April
True spinach can be sown direct but I prefer to sow it in modules and plant those out when the plants are 4-5 weeks old, at which point the roots will be well developed and they will be easy to remove from the modules.
In spring I like to sow 2-3 seeds per module because the plants are vigorous and have plenty of light and heat and access to nutrients in the soil. In winter I prefer to prick out one seed per module, because nutrients are less accessible and plants don't thrive on competition when it's cold and windy.
New Zealand spinach in June, started under cover
New Zealand spinach drops a huge amount of seed long before the plants finish and get removed. As a result it's best to plant it in the same location each year and you probably won't need to ever buy seed again. However I find that it germinates in the open ground long before it's warm enough for it to grow with any vigour, so I dig up about 24 seedlings, pot them up and grow them on in the polytunnel, that way I get a harvest a few weeks earlier.
Although mature plants die back after a moderate frost, seedlings seem hardier, however they still benefit a lot from the protection of a cold-frame or fleece cover.