Perpetual spinach is so easy to grow, and it's very rewarding to see rows of homegrown greens. However, the important part is in the eating, so it's worth learning how to cook perpetual spinach well.
What is perpetual spinach?
Perpetual spinach is very similar to true spinach in terms of taste and texture. If anything, it is slightly milder in flavour. The leaves tend to be larger than spinach leaves (they are in my garden anyway). They are also slightly more robust, so are less inclined to turn to mush when cooked.
Perpetual spinach is actually part of the beet family, and is a type of chard. It is also known as leaf beet. The plants last very well without going to seed even in hot dry weather, and you can continue to pick leaves for months. However, as the plant is a biennial, it will eventually set seed, generally in the second year.
A nutritious leafy green
You've only got to look at perpetual spinach to know that it's good for you! Like other leafy greens, it's packed with vitamins and minerals.
- High in antioxidant vitamins A, C and E
- High in other antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonols and carotenoids
- Rich in important minerals including iron, potassium and magnesium
- Good source of fibre which is linked to beneficial gut bacteria
- Perpetual spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K
How to serve as a side dish
Like other leafy greens, perpetual spinach can be cooked simply and served as a side dish. For this purpose, it's best to wilt or sauté the leaves.
Wilted perpetual spinach
Wash the leaves and remove the tough stems. Tear or cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.
Add the leaves to a pan and pour over a tablespoon of boiling water. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for a minute and a half. If you are cooking a large volume of leaves, turn them partway to ensure they all cook through.
Remove from the heat and tip the perpetual spinach into a colander. Squeeze with the back of a spoon to ensure all the water is removed. This is really important, otherwise you'll end up with a greenish liquid seeping over the rest of your plate!
Sautéed perpetual spinach
If you want to sauté the leaves, you'll need them to be dry. If you have grown the leaves yourself, you might be happy just to give them a quick wipe. Otherwise, if you prefer to wash them, dry them in a large clean tea towel. Then remove the stems and tear into bite sized pieces.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the leaves and stir fry. As soon as the leaves start to collapse, remove from the heat. Depending on the size of the pan, you might have to cook the spinach in more than one batch.
If you like, you can add a finely chopped clove of garlic to the oil before adding the leaves. You could also use another type of healthy oil for frying. If you choose to use butter, take care that it doesn't burn.
Season the cooked spinach with salt and pepper. You could also add a pinch of nutmeg which goes very well with spinach, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
How much spinach to cook
Like other leafy greens, perpetual spinach will collapse when cooked. A huge pile of leaves will quickly cook down to a small portion. Allow about 100g of leaves per person.
Leaf beet stalks
It's also possible to use the stalks of your chard or leaf beet. You can cook and serve them with the leaves, but they will take a little longer to cook, so add them to the pan first. Alternatively, nibble them raw like celery, dipped in hummus.
Using perpetual spinach in recipes
Of course, as well as serving these healthy greens as a side dish, you can also add them to recipes.
Soup: the leaves make a fantastic soup. Try them in this healthy green soup
Pesto: switch out the nettle leaves in pesto for perpetual spinach.
Smoothie: try this spinach and apple smoothie recipe made with leaf beet. It's bursting with goodness.
Quiche: spinach quiche is a classic, and you can use perpetual spinach or chard in this quick healthy spinach quiche (no crust required!)
You can also use the leaves to make a healthier version of Greek spanakopita - these little spinach parcels are delicious.
For a quick version of creamed leaf beet, stir 3 - 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche or cream cheese into your drained wilted perpetual spinach. Add a grating of nutmeg.
Baby perpetual spinach leaves are also lovely in a salad. As the plants start to go to seed, they'll throw up long stems with baby leaves, and these are perfect in a salad. Or just pick a few small leaves from the centre of the plant. But be careful not to remove the growing point as you'll limit the life of your plant.
Frequently asked questions
It is possible to eat perpetual spinach raw. But it's best to do this with just the smaller leaves. Larger leaves will be a bit tougher and stronger flavoured, so either wilt or sauté them as above.
Although perpetual spinach is actually a type of chard rather than spinach, the two plants are very similar in taste.
Yes, I often preserve some of my harvest in this way. Wash the leaves, remove the stems and tear into pieces. To preserve the colour and nutrients in the leaves, it's best to blanche them first. Plunge into a large pan of boiling water for 1 minute, then plunge directly into a bowl of iced water. Drain in a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then freeze in polythene bags.
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How to Cook Perpetual Spinach
- sauce pan or frying pan
- 200 g perpetual spinach leaves
- salt and pepper
- squeeze of lemon juice
- Wash the leaves and remove the large stems. Cut into bit sized pieces.
- Place in a pan and add a tablespoon of boiling water. Cover and simmer for one and a half minutes.
- Tip the spinach into a colander and press down with a spoon to remove all of the water.
- Season with salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lemon if desired.
- It's important to start with dry leaves, so if you want to wash them, dry well by patting with a large clean tea towel. Cut into bite sized pieces.
- Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the leaves and stir fry for a minute or two until the leaves have collapsed.
- Remove from the heat and season to taste.
Please note nutritional information is for guidance only