I didn’t have much success with spinach last year, in the spring or fall. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t very invested in it. I planted some seeds thinking, “It might be nice to have a little spinach,” and then basically didn’t pay any more attention to them. So I guess the weeds and the drought got to them. I suppose that shows how accurate the old adage is: “The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.”
Well, this spring I decided, “I’m going to grow spinach, and I’m going to be successful!” And, wonder of wonders, the resolution worked! Too well, in fact, because the 4 feet of row I planted every three weeks or so have produced more spinach than my family has probably eaten in their entire lives. And these are nothing like the wimpy, flat, yellowish leaves I got last year. These are gorgeous, deep green crinkly things the size of my hand. (I’m growing Long Standing Bloomsdale.) Their success, I think, is due to my vigilance about weeds and to the abundant rainfall we’ve enjoyed in the last month.
So what to do with all this luscious spinach? We certainly can’t eat any more salads than we currently are. (Even though the lettuce in the cold frame is bolting now, the first direct-sown crop is filling the salad bowl admirably.) We’ve been adding spinach to a few recipes, like the butternut squash barley risotto we made last night. We just stirred some fresh spinach into the dish at the end. The greens added a nice kick of color and flavor. But no matter how hard we try, we aren’t going to be able to eat all this spinach before it bolts. Some of it has already sent up flower stalks. So I decided yesterday to harvest everything but the most recent planting and put it in the freezer for out-of-season use.
To do this, I washed and chopped the spinach, removing stems and any particularly large, stringy midribs. Then I dumped it all into boiling water for 2 minutes—what’s called “blanching.” It was crazy to see the leaves lose their volume as soon as they hit the water. I started with an enormous bowl of leaves, and I just kept adding and adding them to my small Dutch oven. It seemed like a bottomless pot! And once they were blanched and drained, I could see exactly how much volume they had lost. My huge salad bowl of leaves was reduced to an amount that would easily fit in a quart freezer bag! Curious to see if they’d lost any weight in addition to their volume, I weighed the bag. What had been 8 oz. of leaves now weighed 7 oz. So not too much loss. It was just so much more compact!
I froze all 7 oz. together, but if I had more, I would likely freeze several different packages, each about the size that we’d use for one dish (since, unless you thaw out the entire block, there’s no way you’re going to be able to detach just some of it). Our favorite way to use frozen spinach is in stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, that’s prime spinach season, so this year we’ll probably have fresh spinach for the holidays. This frozen stuff will be useful mostly in the heat of summer, when spinach won’t grow without bolting immediately.