Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a dark leafy green and flowering plant of the amaranth family along with beets, quinoa, and Swiss chard.
Most believe it originated in Persia and was taken to neighboring nations throughout the empire’s existence, becoming very popular in Europe and belatedly, in North America by the early 1800s.
Domestically, California and Arizona dominate U.S. production, with New Jersey and Texas also contributing to supply for the fresh market, though to a lesser degree.
Fresh market consumption (in bunches, as well as chopped and bagged) continues to climb for this nutrient-packed leafy green, though spinach is still a popular vegetable for processed products.
Types & Varieties
Spinach is classified as either smooth or flat leaf, savoy (crinkly), or red. Within these categories are hybrids like semi-savoy, as well as immaturely-harvested leaves known as baby spinach.
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 with deeply crinkled, crunchier leaves that can be rather difficult to clean.
Semi-savoy has less crinkly leaves and is easier to clean than full savoy spinach, and is used for the 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, Red Kitten, Renegade, Seaside, Space, and Whale; for savoy there’s America, Ashley, Bloomsdale, Regiment, Samish, and Vienna; semi-savoy varieties include Acadia, Carmel, Catalina, Indian Summer, Melody, Reflect, Teton, and Tyee.