Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A welcome gatecrasher

In amongst the Beetroot seeds I sowed this year a couple of "gatecrashers" (aka volunteers) came up.

Perpetual Spinach / Spinach Beet

They are Perpetual Spinach, sometimes called Spinach Beet. They are very closely related to the Beetroot, and their seeds look very similar, so maybe they got mixed up during the seed-packaging process.

The main difference is that Perpetual Spinach does not produce the bulbous swollen root that Beetroot produces, and it has plain green leaves rather than ones deeply veined with red. These leaves are used like normal spinach, namely eaten raw in salads when young, or cooked when older.

Beetroot leaves

The stems are also edible - a bit like those of Swiss Chard, another close relative - but definitely need cooking because they are a bit too tough to eat raw.

Stems of Perpetual Spinach

I haven't harvested any leaves from the volunteers, mainly because Jane doesn't really like spinach in any guise, so I would most likely be eating it on my own. In any case there isn't yet much of it (3 plants), so I'm planning to leave it to grow. It will die back over the Winter, but hopefully it will start up again in the Spring. It will probably give me a few green leaves very early in the season, before any of the freshly-sown plants are available. If I use the tiniest leaves (like the one shown below) in a salad, even Jane might tolerate them! Failing that, I shall use some to make Eggs Florentine, a favourite lunchtime snack for me.

Perpetual Spinach is easy to grow. It tolerates most types of soil (though it prefers it moist), and it bolts less readily than "normal" Spinach. In my opinion it's a good plant to tuck into an odd corner of the garden somewhere as a standby, but perhaps not one to grow in any great quantity. As its name implies, it also lasts longer than the very short-lived normal Spinach. I think it is technically a Biennial (in other words, it runs to seed in its second year), but I have in the past had plants that were effectively perennial - and it certainly self-seeds profusely. It is one of those plants that responds well to regular picking. If you pick frequently, it will produce more leaves. Removing the woody flower-stalks as they appear also prolongs its productive life.


  1. Lots of lovely produce in the patch again. I knew chard was related to beetroot but didn't know perpetual spinach was!

  2. My spinach and chard have picked up after a really slow start - I'm not all that keen but always grow it because it looks nice and provides something green to eat when there is little else growing

  3. With all your years experience of growing your vegetables in raised beds we will be taking lots of inspiration from you. Sarah x

  4. I had a fairly rough time growing spinach this year with a wide range of problems from poor seed germination to tiny plants that refused to grow to seedlings that bolted before they were even transplanted outdoors. Learned quite a few lessons in the process. Perpetual spinach sounds promising, especially as a summer crop. I think I will give a try next year - Thanks for the info Mark!


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