This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
While I am a big fan of living in the present moment, sometimes it pays to take a trip to the past in our mind. And if perhaps we could go all the way back to 1809 and visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello gardens, we could see today’s spotlight variety growing there. According to historians, Jefferson grew Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach in both spring and fall of that year. We know this because Jefferson kept a detailed journal of his garden and farm operations. This particular spinach must have made an impression on him because he grew it again in 1812 as both a spring and fall crop.
I grew it for the first time last year and it certainly made a good impression on me. I planted it in fall and let it overwinter, and it was a star performer for me. The thick, dark green, slightly pointed leaves are a real standout in the garden, and in the kitchen as well. It has become my favorite spinach for cooking, with flavorful and tender leaves that are also good eaten raw. I planted it again this past fall, and it is doing great this year too.
As the name suggests, the seeds of this spinach are indeed prickly, as you can see in the below photo. Spinach seeds can be either round or prickly, though the seeds of this variety are more prickly than any other I have seen. It would seem that in Jefferson’s time, the prickly seeded types were popular in Europe. Today, many Asian varieties have pointed seeds, and that is generally an indicator that the variety has smooth leaves. Savoy varieties with crinkly leaves are more likely to have round seeds.
Amsterdam Prickly Seeded spinach has overwintered for me the last two winters, both in my greenhouse and in a bed outside protected by a cold frame. According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (where I got mine), it is “slower to bolt than ordinary spinach.” Since this is only my second season to grow it, I haven’t really had a chance to decide how it compares with other varieties when it comes to bolting. I should have a better feel for how it holds up in that regard in about a month or so.
If you enjoy growing vegetables that have stood the test of time, this variety surely qualifies. It was grown in Germany as early as the 13th century, and if you are looking for a tasty and cold-hardy spinach you might consider growing it in your own 21st century garden, like I am.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!
It looks like a nice spinach. I’m really not too concerned with bolting in my garden though. The daylight gets long enough to bolt on May 15th here, so that is when the process starts. All the spinach needs to come out by June 1st to get the next crop in. So that works out pretty well for the spring planted kind. I’ve found that overwintered spinach bolts faster. It might be a nice one to try for that.
Our spinach often starts bolting before the daylight gets to 14 hours, no doubt because our spring temps heat up so fast. And the greenhouse spinach bolts first, since it gets even hotter in there. I usually pull it up by the end of April.
Just about any spinach will overwinter in my mild climate, even “Summer Perfection”, so the choice comes down to flavor for me.
Interesting about the seeds indicating leaf type. I may have learned and forgotten that tidbit, but I do remember reading that some seed companies polish the prickly seeds to make them easier to package. I’ve been growing a prickly seeded heirloom called Guntmadingen that has smooth but serrated leaves, it’s really delicious. Unfortunately the seeds don’t seem to be available anymore and I had to pull my plants, not that I was growing enough to save seeds anyway. I’m going to miss that spinach.
This one sounds like a promising variety – I’m definitely on the lookout for more good spinach varieties to try; so far, I haven’t had much luck with spinach, but I think that has mainly to do with my methods than with the varieties themselves.
Those seeds look exactly like the ones I have for Galilee spinach – it’s strange how different spinach varieties seem to have such differently shaped seeds. My winters are much harsher than yours & I haven’t tried to overwinter spinach yet, but I’m hoping to give it a try this coming winter.
An interesting spinach and obviously a rare one. I would likely grow it for a fall crop. Overwintering spinach (or anything) around here is difficult. I’m going to be visiting Comstock Ferre Seeds (owned by Baker Creek) in May for their festival, so maybe I can find some there.
What a neat twist on gardening … looking for seeds grown by our ancestors. Hmm … I wonder if I can discover what types of plants my Scottish or German grandmothers might have planted in their day. Interesting ideas!
Great post Dave, I may have to get this one on my list. I haven’t been really happy with the spinach we planted the last couple of years and I’m looking for something new! Also thanks for joining the From the Farm hop!!
I bought spnach seeds last time I was in Japan, and loved the spinach. The package says they originate in Denmark. I am currently harvesting the seeds and they are quite prickly. I expect they are similar to your Amsterdam Prickly seeds. A great tasting spinach. Thanks for identifying the name for me. That is not what the spinach packet says in Japanese.