Growing spinach in your backyard can prove to be a lot more rewarding than you might think. However, learning about the various types of spinach that you can grow might sound like a hell of a job. Fortunately, we have your back. Read more to learn about the benefits and types of spinach!
If you used to watch Popeye as a child, you might already be accustomed to the huge array of benefits spinach carries.
Jokes aside, it was not all a lie. Though your biceps might not swell up instantly, you will still end up with better hair and skin, digestive system, and cardiovascular health.
Belonging to the same family as beets, chard, and quinoa, spinach incorporates huge green leaves that add aesthetic to any garden as well. This leafy green vegetable is especially famous for its iron content. It has multiple culinary uses and can be inculcated in various dishes.
Types of Spinach
Spinach can broadly be categorized into three main types:
- Savoy spinach
- Smooth – leaf spinach
- Semi – savoy spinach
With various differing elements, they are all unique in their own ways. Each of the types of spinach mentioned above can further be classified into more categories, all of which have been discussed in detail below.
1. Savoy Spinach
Botanically classified as Spinacia oleracea, Savoy spinach is an heirloom variety. By the looks of it, these types of spinach have curly and crinkly leaves, thus also making them famously known as the “curly leaf spinach”. The crinkled leaves along with their habit of growing close to the ground might make cleaning a tedious task.
With an overall crisp texture and a bitter flavor, the dark green leaves can grow up to 5 – 6 inches in height. Their taste substantially differs from the standard spinach leaves.
Since it remains unsuitable for growth in warm regions, Savoy spinach grows best in the cooler regions of California as it can withstand cold better than most varieties. Available throughout the year, it can be harvested as soon as it reaches an edible size.
The bitter flavor of these leaves makes them taste better when eaten cooked rather than raw. However, the younger and tender leaves can be used in salads and sandwiches.
Since the leaves are thick, they can be cooked for longer periods of time without losing their shape or texture. Savoy spinach also makes an amazing substitute for other greens like kale, collards, and chard.
Savoy spinach can further be classified into two types of spinach:
This hybrid variety takes approximately 37 days until harvest. When fully matured, it shows thick, broad leaves shaped like arrowheads. These deep green leaves stay extremely tender even when at their largest.
Regiment spinach shows robust germination and seedling performance during the initial stages. Usually cultivated during the spring and fall seasons, this variety is slow to bolt and can resist mildew. Since they remain tender, they can be served fresh in salads or even sauteed or braised to add crunch.
Bloomsdale is the oldest savoy spinach variety today, with a history of about 200 years. It is usually ready to harvest under 45 days and is known to handle cold better than most other varieties.
Since this variety can bolt particularly fast, it is important to harvest it in late spring or early summer. With an average growth rate, Bloomsdale spinach has long, glossy leaves featuring a texture like succulents.
This classic savoy has a strong earthy flavor and incorporates four times the beta carotene found in broccoli. Also rich in folic acid and iron, it can be added to your salad with slight cooking.
2. Smooth – leaf spinach
Justifying its name, the Smooth – leaf spinach features flat and smooth leaves. This is the reason why it is also sometimes called the “flat-leaf spinach”. The smoothness of these leaves also makes this variety the easiest to clean.
In contrast to the Savoy spinach variety, these leaves have a mild, subtle, and sweet flavor. They are shaped like spades and have a tender texture. If the leaves of this variety are picked at an early stage, they give an even sweeter taste. These are called “baby spinach”.
Though it tastes best when eaten raw, it is also sold as canned, frozen, or processed spinach. In fact, since this variety yields more in a short time, lasts longer, and is easy to clean, it is the ideal choice for processing. It is usually sold loose or prewashed and packaged.
These types of spinach can be further divided into two:
With a maturation period of about 40 days, this hybrid produces round, spoon-like thick leaves. Since they stand upright and are flat, they are easy to clean and have a tangy, crisp flavor. Space spinach is slightly sensitive to acidity in the soil. Also, it requires moist and fertile soil with a pH level between 6.5 to 7.5.
This variety can withstand high temperatures; thus, it bolts slower as compared to other smooth – leaf varieties. Besides being resistant to bolting, as well as downy mildew (races 1 – 3), it is also resistant to the Cladosporium leaf spot.
Red cardinal spinach
Red cardinal spinach features oval to slightly oblong, medium green leaves. The maroon veins and deep beet–red stems add a striking contrast to the entire plant making it stand out from its neighbors. Usually harvested in 25 – 30 days, they can also be used as baby greens in salads.
This variety of spinach is the quickest to bolt, thus it requires an optimal temperature range between 45 to 75. This temperature range combined with about 6 hours of sunlight and a moderate amount of water, can make this plant thrive even in a small garden.
It is preferred to eat them raw like in salads since they tend to lose their vibrant red color when steamed, braised, baked, or sauteed. To be eaten raw or cooked, they can be flavored with Indian or Middle Eastern spices to enhance the taste.
3. Semi – Savoy Spinach
“Savoy” in itself, refers to a large group of types of spinach that have a crinkly leaf texture. Thus, this automatically implies that the Semi – savoy spinach inculcates partially crinkled leaves. Their texture is also attributed to them being a kind of hybrid between the Savoy spinach and Smooth – leaf spinach.
These types of spinach have culinary uses and a crispy texture similar to Savoy spinach. But since the leaves are only partially wrinkled and grow upright from the ground level, they are much easier to clean.
The most distinctive feature about Semi – savoy spinach is its ability to resist diseases and bolting. As compared to all the other kinds, this type has the highest resistance to both of them thus making it an ideal variety to be gardened in your backyard.
The Semi – savoy spinach has four main categorizations under it:
Tyee can be harvested throughout the year in areas that experience mild winters. They take around 35 – 45 days to reach maturation with the daytime temperatures being around 40.
This variety grows to produce heavy and oval leaves that are dark green in color. They stand upright and are characterized by their remarkable aroma.
It is resistant to downy mildew, especially races 1 and 3, and highly tolerant towards many other common diseases that affect spinach plants.
Also called baby leaf spinach, Catalina takes 48 days before it is ready to harvest. This plant can endure light frost and shade during summer.
This variety incorporates thick and smooth leaves. They are spear-shaped and slightly curved as well. With a mildly nutty flavor, they are fairly resistant to bolting. The structure of its foliage also makes it purposeful for culinary purposes.
Teton is a variety that can mature in about 40 – 45 days and prefers a temperature range of 50℉ to 60℉. It thrives in a rich and moist soil environment which can be achieved by using organic fertilizers.
The smooth, dark green leaves grow into a tender and upright plant with a mild flavor and good texture. These leaves are especially slow to bolt and resistant to downy mildew races 1, 2, 3, and 4. They are available throughout the year and provide exceptional nutritional value with vitamins A, C, and B-complex in abundance.
The Indian summer spinach might suit experienced gardeners better due to their requirement of maintenance. It takes 40 – 45 days to fully mature with flat but slightly curled leaves that are somewhat smooth in texture. In full bloom, these leaves can grow up to 10 – 12 inches long.
These types of spinach are exceptionally resistant to bolting and are produced throughout three seasons – summer, fall, and spring.
Alternative Types of Spinach
This section discusses two other types of spinach that are ideal for growth in hotter weather as compared to the varieties mentioned above.
1. New Zealand Spinach
As the name suggests, this variety is native to New Zealand. It is an annual plant that belongs to a completely different family than the normal spinach.
This variety thrives as a summer vegetable and enjoys high temperatures. Thus, it is available when the other varieties are not due to their bitter taste or bolting during the summers. With an erect growth, this variety is also found growing naturally along sandy shorelines.
The plant stands vertical to the ground with the stems spreading as long as 2 – 4 feet. Even when fully grown, the plant is tender and weak with small, fuzzy, dark green leaves that have a crisp and succulent texture.
These triangular leaves are so weak that they turn into mush when cooked or even melt inside the mouth when bitten down on. They must be harvested when they reach a length of about 3 inches.
New Zealand spinach has multiple names depending on its geographic location. It is also known as Botany Bay spinach, Cook’s cabbage, sea spinach, and Kokihi.
2. Malabar Spinach
The Malabar spinach incorporates a soft stem and glossy leaves, both of which are edible. These leaves are shaped beautifully anywhere between an oval or a heart with a semi-succulent, mucilaginous texture.
In contrast to the other varieties, this one actually needs a lot of heat to thrive. Originated in tropical Asia, it is a member of the Basellaceae family. Besides warm temperatures, Malabar spinach can also tolerate heavy rainfall.
These varieties come in two species – Basella Alba which has green stemmed leaves and Basella Ruba which incorporates red stems. The plant is usually ready to harvest once the stem reaches a height of 6 – 8 inches, which is after 55 – 70 days. It also has a slightly peppery flavor with a tinge of citrus.
Like New Zealand spinach, this variety too is known differently in different geographic locations. For example, it is called Paag Prung in Thailand, Mong Toi in Vietnam, Vietnamese spinach in English countries, and so on.
Now that you know about all the major types of spinach, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy the seeds of the type that appealed to you the most and plant away to your heart’s content!
Looking for other nutritional greens to add to your backyard? Check out this guide on how to grow and care for Romaine Lettuce.