The first way is the bad way. If your spinach plants look like the picture on the left, with pointy arrow-shaped leaves and the beginnings of a flower stalk, you are unfortunately done with spinach until the cooler temperatures of early fall arrive. Pull out those plants and toss them in with the compost: don’t eat them! Seriously. They will taste yucky and you will regret it.
Spinach, like other leafy greens and even many herbs, turns instantly bitter when it “bolts,” or begins to flower. The difference in taste is so noticeable that I find it totally shocking, especially in spinach and basil. With basil, you can keep snipping off the top sets of leaves to prevent the flowers from forming and postpone bolting until the end of the summer. Spinach, on the other hand, prefers cool temperatures and has a much shorter lifespan, so no amount of snipping will prevent the bolt. I’ve read (too late for me, I might add) that the first things to look for are even the most tentatively pointed leaves. Upon the first glimpse of these, immediately pull out all of your plants and find some way to eat all that spinach! This was my first attempt at growing it, and so all of this took me by surprise (and it really did seem to happen overnight). So now I’m even more impressed with our fantastic CSA, whose bounty of non-bolted spinach more than made up for my negligence. I’m going to try again in the fall.
Speaking of Turnip Rock: another reason I love them is that they helpfully publish weekly recipes on their blog, to help us figure out what to do with all this food. The following is my modification of their Spinach Pesto recipe. I’ve made it twice now, improvising adjustments, and that’s what the +/- are for. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe, and a great way to condense huge quantities of spinach into a nice appetizer spread or freezable little packets for later.
SPINACH ALMOND PESTO
Adapted from Turnip Rock Farm
1 large bunch spinach, washed and torn, stems removed (about 4 well-packed cups, +/- )
2 to 3 garlic scapes, snipped
4 +/- fresh basil leaves
3+ tablespoons raw almonds
1/3+ cup shredded parmesan
1/3 cup olive oil
Place the almonds, parmesan, garlic scapes, basil leaves, and a few handfuls of spinach into a food processor and process until loosely blended. Then, add the rest of the spinach a few handfuls at a time, processing until it’s all incorporated. Add salt to taste, and you might want to add a little more cheese, or basil, etc. Done!
This seems to make about 1 1/3 cups of pesto.
To temporarily store it in the fridge: place in a container and cover with a thin layer of olive oil or a layer of plastic wrap directly on the pesto’s surface, then tightly cover container. Use within 2 days.
To freeze: place a dollop of pesto (I used 1/2 cup) on a sheet of plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and around and create a little bundle. Then wrap this bundle in another layer of plastic wrap, and freeze. Stored this way, the SF Gate says it will keep for up to 2 months.
(Note: I did not blanch the basil or the spinach, so I’m curious to see if it keeps it’s color. You might want to blanch it first, if you’re concerned).