We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Spinacia oleracea - L.

Common Name Spinach
Family Chenopodiaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The leaves of most varieties of spinach are high in oxalic acid[218]. Although not toxic, this substance does lock up certain minerals in a meal, especially calcium, making them unavailable to the body. Therefore mineral deficiencies can result from eating too much of any leaf that contains oxalic acid. However, the mineral content of spinach leaves is quite high so the disbenifits are to a large extent outweighed by the benefits. There are also special low-oxalic varieties of spinach that have been developed. Cooking the leaves will also reduce the content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238]. Possible methaemoglobinaemia from nitrates in children under 4 months. Anticoagulant patients should avoid excessive intake due to vitamin K content [301].
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range The origin of this plant is uncertain, it probably arose in S.W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Spinacia oleracea Spinach

Spinacia oleracea Spinach


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Spinacia oleracea is a ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to September. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chenopodium oleraceum. Obione stocksii. Spinacia spinosa. Moench.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed
Edible Uses: Colouring

Leaves - raw or cooked[1, 2, 16, 37, 132]. Tender young leaves can be added to salads, older leaves are used as greens or added to soups etc[183, 201]. The leaves contain oxalic acid (6 - 8% in young leaves, 23 - 27% in the cotyledons)[218], see the notes above on toxicity. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available[218]. Seeds - raw or cooked. It can be sprouted and added to salads[183]. Chlorophyll extracted from the leaves is used as an edible green dye[142].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 285 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 28g; Fat: 5.5g; Carbohydrate: 40g; Fibre: 8g; Ash: 23g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 800mg; Phosphorus: 415mg; Iron: 80mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 650mg; Potassium: 4500mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 50mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.7mg; Riboflavin (B2): 2mg; Niacin: 8mg; B6: 0mg; C: 600mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes: The values here are based on the median figures of those quoted in the report. Vitamin A figures are in milligrammes.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Appetizer  Carminative  Febrifuge  Hypoglycaemic  Laxative  Urinary

The plant is carminative and laxative[218]. In experiments it has been shown to have hypoglycaemic properties[218]. It has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi[240]. The leaves have been used in the treatment of febrile conditions, inflammation of the lungs and the bowels[240]. The seeds are laxative and cooling[240]. They have been used in the treatment of difficult breathing, inflammation of the liver and jaundice[240].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses


A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves[100].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Plants grow best and produce their heaviest crop of leaves on a nitrogen-rich soil[16, 37, 200]. They dislike very heavy or very light soils[37]. They also dislike acid soils, preferring a neutral to slightly alkaline soil[200]. Plants require plenty of moisture in the growing season, dry summers causing the plants to quickly run to seed[27]. Summer crops do best in light shade to encourage more leaf production before the plant goes to seed[27], winter crops require a warm dry sunny position[1, 27]. Young plants are hardy to about -9°c[200]. Spinach is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[132, 183]. These varieties can be grouped into two main types as detailed below:- Forms with prickly seeds. These are the more primitive forms. Their leaves are more lobed and they are in general more cold tolerant and also more resistant of summer heat[264]. They were more often used to produce a crop in the winter[200, 264]. Forms with round seeds have been developed in cultivation, These have broader leaves, tend to be less cold hardy and were also more prone to bolt in hot weather[264]. They were used mainly for the summer crop[200]. Most new cultivars are of the round seeded variety and these have been developed to be more resistant to bolting in hot weather, more cold tolerant, to produce more leaves and also to be lower in calcium oxalate which causes bitterness and also has negative nutritional effects upon the body[264]. Some modern varieties have been developed that are low in oxalic acid. Edible leaves can be obtained all year round from successional sowings[200]. The summer varieties tend to run to seed fairly quickly, especially in hot dry summers and so you need to make successional sowings every few weeks if a constant supply is required. Winter varieties provide leaves for a longer period, though they soon run to seed when the weather warms up. Spinach grows well with strawberries[18, 20]. It also grows well with cabbages, onions, peas and celery[201]. A fast-growing plant, the summer crop can be interplanted between rows of slower growing plants such as Brussels sprouts. The spinach would have been harvested before the other crop needs the extra space[200]. Spinach is a bad companion for grapes and hyssop[201]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is fleshy. Thick or swollen - fibrous or tap root [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ from March to June for a summer crop. Make successional sowings, perhaps once a month, to ensure a continuity of supply. The seed germinates within about 2 weeks and the first leaves can be harvested about 6 weeks later. Seed is sown in situ during August and September for a winter crop.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Klaus Dichtel   Fri Jan 24 13:56:40 2003

Last june I cooked besides the leaves of "Monopa" & "Matador" the flowers and flowerstems. This meal gave an unpleasant burning in the mouth and had to be quit.

Erin Shearer   Tue Sep 23 14:10:35 2003

I was just wondering if anyone knows the reason of why spinach is green. If someone could e-mail me with the answer that would be great.

dukeatradies   Thu Jun 9 17:23:13 2005

it can have male and female on one plant

   Jul 19 2011 12:00AM

I sow the variety Medania in late summer. It survives the harshest Danish winters, and by April provides a fine crop of large, round leaves. If left in the ground, seed can be harvested in July. The seed is smooth, and as it forms on all the plants I must assume they are NOT dioecious as described in the article.

   Jul 28 2012 12:00AM

Spinach can be grown as an annual, but sown in spring, the plant bolts very quickly and the result is questionable. Here in Denmark I grow spinach as a biannual. Sow in the first half of August; in the shortening daylength the plants develop at a gentle pace, and by November are the size of a fully grown Lamb's lettuce plant. My variety is Medania, which survives sustained temperatures of -15 degrees C, and lives quite happily under a deep layer of snow for several months. Do not cover or mulch. In March the plants wake up, and by late April there is a fine harvest of large, succulent leaves, which far surpasses anything sown that spring. In warm, sunny conditions, the plants reach waist-height by June, when seed can be collected.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Spinacia oleracea  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.