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Dublin: 8 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019
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You'll be strong to the finish if you grow yourself spinach (to paraphrase a great man)

Without wishing to put a hex on it almost nothing can go wrong with perpetual spinach, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

EASIER TO GROW than annual spinach, perpetual spinach is actually from the same family as beetroot and is therefore often known as leaf beet or spinach beet.

It is less prone to bolting than regular spinach but is not quite as flavoursome. What it lacks in flavour however, it more than makes up for in sheer doggedness – it will last right through even the toughest winter and will be churning out leaves when all else around it has succumbed.

It is therefore well worth having a short row of plants. A perpetual spinach plant would also grow happily in a large pot.

Sowing

Sow in module trays, 2.5 cm deep. From one seed several seedlings will appear – this little magic trick comes courtesy of the fact that similar to beetroot, the seed is in fact a cluster of seeds. Get rid of all the seedlings bar the strongest one. Sow under cover in March (3-5 plants) and again in June.

Growing

About 4-6 weeks after sowing, transplant to final growing spot, leaving 30cm between plants. There is no particular care required – simply keep it weed free and water during dry spells. A few plants in a polytunnel will also be incredibly prolific and the leaves will be slightly more tender than those grown outside. Remove any damaged leaves.

Harvesting

Harvest continuously throughout the season – in the summer you can take as much as half the plant in one go and it will bounce back. Be more sparing in the winter. To harvest, twist leaves away from the base of the plant – don’t pull at them.

Recommended Varieties

Perpetual Spinach

Problems

Without wishing to put a hex on it, almost nothing can go wrong… perpetual spinach is incredibly hardy. You don’t even have to rotate it.

shutterstock_84832240 Source: Shutterstock/O.Bellini

GIY Tips

  • Small, tender spinach leaves make an excellent addition to salads
  • Perpetual spinach is so resilient, it doesn’t even mind that no-one has bothered to come with a proper variety name – the most common variety is simply called “perpetual spinach”.

GROW HQ

The home of the GIY movement and our brand new food education centre, GROW HQ, is finally open in Waterford city. In addition to our 65-seat home-grown food café and shop, we’ve a range of growing and cooking courses happening weekly – for courses happening this month, check out www.growhq.org.

Recipe of the Week

Mick’s Wilted Spinach, Black Pudding and Poached Egg Breakfast

I get a lot of slagging here in GIY about my love of breakfast, and I am loathe to add fuel to that particular fire. But, it is without question my favourite meal of the day, and I’ll get up early just to ensure I have enough time to cook it.

This breakfast is packed with iron and protein in the form of fresh-blood black pudding, eggs and spinach. Though black pudding is a rich and easily absorbed source of iron, it’s on the fatty side – so you could perhaps leave it out mid-week and enjoy at the weekend.

Always seek out a good quality pudding made from fresh blood as opposed to blood ‘powder’ – it really should have only a small handful of ingredients: blood, pork fat and meat, rice, oatmeal and seasoning. Inch House is an artisan black pudding made by Nora Ryan from Inch House in Thurles. It’s available from good retailers including Ardkeen in Waterford, Cavistons in Dublin and Country Choice in Nenagh.

Ingredients

  • 6-7 large spinach leaves – stalks finely chopped, and leaves chopped
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 4 x 1cm slices of good quality black pudding
  • 1 beef tomato – cut in to slices
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread

Directions

Fry a little butter in a pan on a low heat and add the spinach stalks. Wilt gently until soft and then stack them in the corner of the pan. Add the slices of black pudding and fry for a few minutes on each side until browned and cooked through. Remove them and the spinach stalks to an oven to keep warm. Fry the slices of tomato for a minute or so on each side to brown slightly and then remove from the pan.

Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Crack the eggs in and poach them as you like them. Pop some sourdough bread in the toaster. Back to the frying pan – add the spinach leaves. Season well with some sea salt and black pepper and grate a little fresh nutmeg on top. Keep turning the spinach in the pan – you want it to wilt gently as opposed to frying so add a little knob of butter or a few drops of water if you need to.

When the spinach is wilted it’s time to plate up – butter a slice of sourdough toast and them make a stack on top: a slice of black pudding, tomato, spinach stalks and leaves and top with a poached egg. Eat and enjoy.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

Read: It’s hard to find great quality lettuce in supermarkets – but it’s really easy to grow yourself >

Read: Pretty much every pest wants to eat it – so here’s how to grow perfect broccoli >

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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