Thursday, May 16, 2013

What to Harvest Now (or soon!): Spinach - by Barbara LaRowe

This time of year makes everyone yearn for fresh veggies, homegrown goodies from the garden.  Since we live in Colorado we are still getting vestiges of winter, so the idea of having your garden in full growth is still around the corner. 

For those people who are anxious for the taste of fresh vegetables, spinach is a great early crop that can be started in a container, and protected when necessary. 

Spinach is rich in vitamin C and iron.  Spinach likes to be planted during the cool season.  Seedlings emerge in 6 to 14 days and the crop is usually ready to pick within 40 to 46 days.  Spinach tends to get a bitter taste, or bolt when the temperatures rise, so it is best to plant in early spring or in early fall. It also follows that since spinach develops a bitter taste when the temperature rises, you need to harvest the young leaves of the spinach as soon as a rosette of five or more leaves develop. 

Baby spinach leaves are very flavorful and sweet.  You may harvest the spinach by cutting the leaves at the stem.  The spinach leaves should be separated and individually rinsed, several times to remove the dirt, and discard any discolored leaves.    The leaves may then be refrigerated for 10 to 14 days. 

My spinach is always consumed before the ten day period, but if you happen to have a bumper crop, and have become weary of spinach lasagna, spinach salad, spinach quiche, cheese and spinach sandwiches; you may wish to freeze the leaves.  You will need to steam the spinach leaves, chop and place the leaves in freezer bags or freezer containers.

My favorite way to eat spinach is a salad, and I would like to share a recipe I have used for many years for a fast spinach salad with hot bacon dressing.

5 cups spinach leaves torn
2 cups romaine leaves torn
2 small tomatoes cut into wedges
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 slice bacon, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Twin sweetener

Combine spinach, romaine, tomatoes, mushroom, and carrots in a large bowl and set aside
Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet until crisp.  Carefully stir in vinegar, water, tarragon, and pepper.  Heat to boiling; remove from heat. Stir in Twin sweetener. Add spinach mixture to skillet.  Toss about 30 to 60 seconds.  Transfer to serving bowl.  Serve immediately.