Saturday, 22 May 2010

Fresh Spinach Time Again

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm

Oh, dear - time for me to post again. It really snuck up on me this time, and I'm at a loss about what to write about. As one of the few charter members of this Co-op still contributing (with more than 40 posts, last count), I do want to provide timely information without repeating myself. I hope y'all don't mind if I've adapted something from a couple of years ago on my own blog. It is spinach time around here once again, after all:

I love spinach salad (especially with this dressing) but our growing season for spinach can be problematic. High-desert spring weather can go from freezing cold to wilting heat in the space of a day (and back again - snow in June isn't completely unheard of). It's a delicate balancing act to get spring-seeded spinach big enough to pick before it bolts and starts sending up a seed stalk.

So instead, I sow my little spinach patch in the late fall when I plant my garlic and shallots. I like the open-pollinated (meaning not hybrid, so I can save the seeds) Bloomsdale Long-Standing, both for its ability to withstand both heat and cold, and for the meaty, smooth, easy-to-clean leaves. The seeds then lie dormant until late February, when the melting snows and lengthening days make the perfect conditions for germination. I've been eating spinach salads for weeks now. In the photo, one plant that was too close to the edge of the protecting wire cage is a bit bird-pecked, but the rest are still doing great. On down the soaker hose behind are garlic and then shallots. Following the hose around to the left are some of the spring-seeded peas, with onion plants further back.

Every week, I cut a plant or two down to a couple of inches, and then leave it to regrow for a couple of weeks. This method provides me with a continuous supply of fresh spinach salads for a couple of months, at least. Washed in a sink full of cool water, picked through and stems removed, the leaves are then put into a wire basket and taken out onto the deck, where they're swung vigorously up and around overhead (the whole-body workout version of a salad spinner). The swung-dry leaves then keep nicely for days, wrapped in a clean cotton dish towel and then tied up in a plastic grocery bag. This past week we've had cold and rainy weather, so the spinach has just gone crazy. I'm picking spinach leaves the size of rhubarb! Not only do I have enough for salads daily (one leaf can make a salad), but this year, even enough to freeze. I dunk the leaves into boiling water for just a minute to blanch them, then cool in a sinkful of cold water and drain. Most of my cooked spinach recipes call for half a 10-oz package of frozen spinach, so I pack a 1/2 cup measure heaping full, make that into a little spinach patty, and put them on a cookie sheet. Frozen on the sheet, each disk is then wrapped in plastic wrap and all stored in a gallon freezer bag. This way, I can easily pull out just enough for a recipe for the two of us all next winter.

So, tell me, dear readers: why do you read this blog regularly? Are there topics you'd like to hear more about? Or is it just the variety that keeps you coming back?