Types of Spinach
Spinach can be classified into three basic types: Savoy, flat-leaf, and semi-savoy spinach. Older varieties can also be distinguished from newer varieties of spinach from its appearance and taste. The older varieties tend to have narrower leaves and a stronger bitter taste. Modern hybrids tend to grow more rapidly but are less likely to run up to seed. They also have rounder seeds and produce broader leaves.
Savoy spinach has curly, deeply crinkly, and dark green leaves and typically sold in groceries and supermarkets in fresh bundles. It has a very productive yield and can handle cold a lot better than most types of spinach. Because it has the habit of growing low, it can get muddy and gritty and thus be quite a chore to clean. Common varieties of savoy spinach include Merlo Nero from Italy; Bloomsdale, which is popular for being fairly resistant to bolting, has thick succulent leaves that is great eaten raw and added to salads; Viroflay, a large spinach with high yields; and Regiment, which produces large deep green leaves that stay tender.
Flat-leaf, also known as smooth-leaf spinach, can be distinguished by its smooth and broad leaves that make easier to rinse and clean compared to the crinkly savoy varieties. This is typically the type of spinach used in frozen and canned spinach, baby foods, soups, and processed foods. Some of the more popular varieties of flat-leaf spinach include Space, which is slower to bolt than most varieties of the same type and Red Cardinal, which can be identified by the red veins in its leaves and deep red stems like beet leaves.
A hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves, semi-savoy is grown for processing and for selling fresh in the market. It grows upright, which makes it less likely to be dirtied with mud, and thus makes it easier to clean than savoy varieties. Some are bred to have good resistance to bolt and disease and can run well up to seed. Semi-savoy is usually the best choice of spinach for growing at home.
Some of the more popular varieties of semi-savoy include Tyee, which can be grown all-year round in places with mild winter, is resistant to Downey Mildew races and bolting, and grows upright and vigorously with dark green leaves; Catalina, which has succulent and thick leaves shaped like a spear with moderate bolt resistance; and Teton, which has deep green oval leaves and very slow to bolt.