Spinach

Botanical Name : Spinacia oleracea
Family:
Amaranthaceae,(formerly Chenopodiaceae)
Genus: Spinacia
Species:
S. oleracea
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order:
Caryophyllales

Common Name :Spinach

Habitat: The Spinach is native to central and southwestern Asia, probably of Persian origin, being introduced into Europe about the fifteenth century.

Description:
Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.

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Common spinach, Spinacia oleracea, was long considered to be in the Chenopodiaceae family, but in 2003, the Chenopodiaceae family was combined with the Amaranthaceae family under the family name ‘Amaranthaceae’ in the order Caryophyllales. Within the Amaranthaceae family, Amaranthoideae and Chenopodioideae are now subfamilies, for the amaranths and the chenopods, respectively.

Types of spinach;
A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern ones. Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly, but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.

There are  three basic types of spinach and they  are:

1.Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets in the United States. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting. Other common heirloom varieties are Merlo Nero (a mild variety from Italy) and Viroflay (a very large spinach with great yields).

2.Flat- or smooth-leaf spinach has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods. Giant Noble is an example variety.

3.Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as Savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. Tyee Hybrid is a common semi-savoy.

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Cultivation:
Plants grow best and produce their heaviest crop of leaves on a nitrogen-rich soil. They dislike very heavy or very light soils. They also dislike acid soils, preferring a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Plants require plenty of moisture in the growing season, dry summers causing the plants to quickly run to seed. Summer crops do best in light shade to encourage more leaf production before the plant goes to seed, winter crops require a warm dry sunny position. Young plants are hardy to about -9°c. Spinach is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties. These varieties can be grouped into two main types as detailed below:- Forms with prickly seeds. These are the more primitive forms. Their leaves are more lobed and they are in general more cold tolerant and also more resistant of summer heat. They were more often used to produce a crop in the winter. Forms with round seeds have been developed in cultivation, These have broader leaves, tend to be less cold hardy and were also more prone to bolt in hot weather. They were used mainly for the summer crop. Most new cultivars are of the round seeded variety and these have been developed to be more resistant to bolting in hot weather, more cold tolerant, to produce more leaves and also to be lower in calcium oxalate which causes bitterness and also has negative nutritional effects upon the body. Some modern varieties have been developed that are low in oxalic acid. Edible leaves can be obtained all year round from successional sowings. The summer varieties tend to run to seed fairly quickly, especially in hot dry summers and so you need to make successional sowings every few weeks if a constant supply is required. Winter varieties provide leaves for a longer period, though they soon run to seed when the weather warms up. Spinach grows well with strawberries. It also grows well with cabbages, onions, peas and celery. A fast-growing plant, the summer crop can be interplanted between rows of slower growing plants such as Brussels sprouts. The spinach would have been harvested before the other crop needs the extra space. Spinach is a bad companion for grapes and hyssop.

Propagation :
Seed to be sown from March to June for a summer crop. Make successional sowings, perhaps once a month, to ensure a continuity of supply. The seed germinates within about 2 weeks and the first leaves can be harvested about 6 weeks later. Seed is sown during August and September for a winter crop

Edible Uses:
It is eaten as very delicius green leafy vegetables.Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.

Polyglutamyl folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells, and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content. Vitamin B9 was first isolated from spinach in 1941.

Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be rich in iron. It also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium, decreasing its absorption. Calcium and zinc also limit iron absorption. The calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources. By way of comparison, the human body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach

Medicinal Uses:
Appetizer;  Carminative;  Febrifuge;  Hypoglycaemic;  Laxative.

The plant is carminative and laxative. In experiments it has been shown to have hypoglycaemic properties. It has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi. The leaves have been used in the treatment of febrile conditions, inflammation of the lungs and the bowels. The seeds are laxative and cooling. They have been used in the treatment of difficult breathing, inflammation of the liver and jaundice.

Known Hazards:  The leaves of most varieties of spinach are high in oxalic acid. Although not toxic, this substance does lock up certain minerals in a meal, especially calcium, making them unavailable to the body. Therefore mineral deficiencies can result from eating too much of any leaf that contains oxalic acid. However, the mineral content of spinach leaves is quite high so the disbenifits are to a large extent outweighed by the benefits. There are also special low-oxalic varieties of spinach that have been developed. Cooking the leaves will also reduce the content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition. Possible methaemoglobinaemia from nitrates in children under 4 months. Anticoagulant patients should avoid excessive intake due to vitamin K content.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/spinac80.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinacia_oleracea
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Spinacia+oleracea

 

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