The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Ridiculously Fresh Spinach

April 30th, 2009 · 9 Comments · Posted in garden

spinach-0021Growing your own food, you sometimes forget how much better it tastes than the stuff at the supermarket. Then a small bite shakes you back into reality.

Case in point: our spinach.

Spinach is notoriously difficult to grow here in the District of Columbia. Our springs are too short. It gets hot and sticky too quickly. Spinach is one of those cool-loving plants that bolts at the first sign of any real heat.

Back in December, before the ground froze, I planted spinach along with a number of other hardy greens under a plastic tunnel. It’s a rather long story why I chose to do this in December. Everything went fine–my seeds all germinated–until a huge wind came along and blew my plastic away. I gave everything up for lost and we had some desperately cold winter days afterward. But guess what survived just fine? Right, the spinach.

My amazing spinach plants, having suffered through a stretch of near-record high April temperatures, are now reaching for the sky trying to go to seed. This morning I clipped the biggest of them and harvested the leaves for my usual egg and bacon breakfast. What I’ve discovered since I stopped eating starchy carbohydrates is that spinach and other greens are a terrific stand-in for toast in soaking up my egg yolks. I simply wilt the greens in my saute pan before cooking the eggs, giving them a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper.

Until now, I was buying spinach either in bulk at Whole Foods or in a bag at Harris Teeter. They did the job just fine. But this morning something exploded in my mouth. It was the flavor of my own spinach, freshly cut in the garden.

It would be pointless for me to try and describe the flavor of fresh spinach. Let’s just say that switching from store-bought to garden-fresh is like moving from black and white to color. It’s a moment wherein the flavor seems to permeate every cell of the gardener’s body and he thinks, Yes, this is real food.

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  • Julia

    I agree about the fresh spinach! It has texture, it’s sweet! I’ve tried growing spinach here in New England but have never been able to harvest anything appreciable. Lucky you.

  • ppolischuk

    We had some spinach (and lettuce and carrots) overwinter down in Shaw. It’s now bolting, but it provided a lot of delicious, buttery leaves before climbing for the sun. I think that’s the way to go with spinach in DC.

  • Sylvie

    I am a tad cooler than you Ed in the First Washington, but we also had 4 days above 90 degrees. I used shade cloth and a couple of misting during the day, and so far, so good… You are right the flavor of really fresh spinach is outstanding. I love it with running egg yolk and a little bacon….

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, I obviously have to get some more Reemay. The last bolt we had we spent on covering a nearby peach tree a couple of years ago to keep the squirrels off. (Worked somewhat.) Shading sounds like a good method for the spinach. I did some extra watering to give the plants some relief. Otherwise, we are loving this cool, moist spring we’re having.

  • Sylvie

    no, not Reemay. I use Reemay in winter or for plants that want extra warm, as heat builds up under Reemay. Not good for spinach, lettuce, rocket or any of the plants that prefer cool. Shade cloth is more loosely woven, is dark and casts shade. I’ll be posting on that in one of my next post.

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, now I understand. Yes, I know which fabric you’re talking about. I’ve never used it before. Maybe time to try it. The technique you’re describing reminds me of a great French film, “Jean de Florette,” where the farmer makes ingenious use of reeds tied in a long, narrow matt to shade his carnation plants. The matt is supported on poles, so you can walk the length of the flower bed and simply roll up the matt to allow sunshine onto the plants. That’s how our forefathers would have shaded their garden, before synthetic fabrics.

  • Sylvie

    Funny you say that about the reed mat. That was my first shade cloth (a recycled reed blind). I still have it but only use for small areas and for the demo garden. I bought several large shade cloth at yard sale price from a closing nursery. They are terrific!

    Jean de Florette and its sequel Manon des Sources are some of my favorite movie (the ones with Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Beart etc – not the 1950’s version). Do try he books if you have not read them. If you like the movies, you’ll love the books!

  • foodhoe

    Great post, we neophytes just plunked a buncha seeds down in the earth and are crossing our fingers with very little actual information on what we are doing. It’s very interesting to read about shading the plants etc, and makes me realize I should consult our gardening manual!

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, thanks for the tip on the books. It never occurred to me to look for the original novels, nor did I know there was an earlier version of the film. (A French friend tells me it was a TV serial as well.) The two films are among my favorites–hearbreaking, classic cinema.

    fh, if all else fails, read the instructions. You might be surprised how often farmers turn to their manuals. Nobody can keep all that info in their head.