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Spinach: From Mouth to Brain

By Megan Gross, Horticulture/Natural Resource Agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Every now and then the subtle indications you are losing your mind aren't so subtle. A week ago my landlord called from Baton rouge to let me know they received an envelope from me, unsealed and empty.  They warned me to put a stop on the rent check, for it had obviously been stolen. Of course I said I would do it right away.  Then, to my wide-eyed dismay, the brain clouds parted and gave way to the notion that my check was no more stolen than was Clinton's integrity; it simply never was.

I'm not sure what possessed me to share this story with a colleague, but I did.   And her solution was simple: eat more blueberries.  On-going research conducted at Tufts University has shown that anti-oxidant rich foods help prevent and even reverse age-related memory decline.  Specifically, old rats with bad memories were put on a fifferent anti-oxidant rich diets and sent through a maze.  The old rats who ate blueberries, which contain more anti-oxidants than any other fruit or vegetable tested to date, not only improved their previous scores, but also outperformed any other group of old rats.

Now, from a gardening standpoint, this is not very exciting news.  Blueberries demand very acidic soil, and our simply does not match up.  Furthermore, they're whiney about wind, fussy about fertilizer, and positively perverse about pruning.   So, now what?

Spinach.  Spinach is the answer.  Spinach is among the top-ranking anti-oxidant rich vegetables and a snap to grow in this area.  Spinach grows in a wide range of soils provided they are moist and fertile.  From "seed to feed", you're looking at about thirty days. Spinach devotees should seed about every ten days for a continuous supply.  And keep right on seeding into August, as spinach will tolerate a light September frost.

Sow seeds one inch apart, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sun.  After plants emerge, thin them so they are approximately three inches apart.  Space rows about a foot apart.  (Also consider interplanting with root crops, such as carrots or radishes.)  Keep garden soil moist, but not water-logged.  Harvest by sniping stems just above the root attachment; by not pulling up the root you will encourage more production.

Spinach will bolt (flower) earlier in persistently hot weather; do not harvest after the plant has bolted, unless you like your spinach bitter.  'Tyee' (Johnny's Seeds) is a bolt-resistant variety and is recommended for the warmer gardens in the area.   Slower bolters also tend to be slower growers ('Tyee' is 42 days to harvest).   Some of the faster growers include 'Hector' (37 days), and 'Space (39 days), a smooth leafed variety.  All spinach will do fine in our climate.

Other anti-oxidant rich vegetables that are at least moderately feasible to grow in this area include squash, peppers, and... well, there are some others.  But, if you're like me and are growing produce for cognitive repair, it's best if we try to remember just one... whichever one it may be.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Meier.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010