TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
Flat leaf is the most common type of spinach consumed in the United States with smooth, tender leaves, and is also used for canning and freezing. Savoy spinach, also called curly leaf, has a more bitter taste than flat leaf with deeply crinkled, crunchier leaves that can be hard to clean. Its sibling, semi-savoy, has less crinkly leaves and is easier to clean, and used for fresh market, processing, and cooking. Red spinach leaves have the characteristic green coloring with a red center and round, tender, thick leaves and a sweet flavoring.
Baby spinach is flat leaf and harvested before full maturity for increased tenderness, while baby spoon spinach is a type of savoy with a sweeter taste and tiny crispy leaves.
Varieties of flat leaf include Corvair, Gazelle, Olympia, Pigeon, Renegade, and Whale; for savoy there’s America, Ashley, Bloomsdale, Regiment, and Samish; semi-savoy varieties include Catalina, Indian Summer, Melody, Space, Teton, and Tyee.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, University of Georgia, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
PESTS & DISEASE
Like other leafy greens, spinach is vulnerable to numerous pests, with cabbage loopers, leafminers, and aphids leading the fray. Others of note include beetles, grasshoppers, mites, nematodes, thrips, several types of worms, and whiteflies.
Cabbage looper larvae will feed on outer leaves, leaving large jagged holes as they work their way to the developing head. In similar fashion, leafminers make their way through foliage, leaving a trail of colored spots and laying eggs. Both pests can render plants unfit for sale or consumption.
Green peach aphids go after the juice in leaves and transmit viruses that can stunt growth and cause browning, wilting, low yields, and eventual plant death.
Among the more common diseases are anthracnose, curly top virus, leaf spot, cucumber mosaic virus, damping-off, downy mildew, white rust, and tip burn.
Symptoms of cucumber mosaic virus include a lack of coloring, curling of young leaves, and stunted growth. Damping-off is common and can kill both seeds and seedlings causing discoloration, stem rot, and death of the plant.
Downy mildew is a threat to all stages of plant development, causing yellowing and fungal growth on leaves. Lesions will develop and eventually turn brown.
White rust, not surprisingly, appears as white bubbles on leaves, often with yellow spots, affecting yield, appearance, and marketability of the crop.
Resources: Oregon State University, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Agri-Life Extension Service, University of California Vegetable Research & Information Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USDA.