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About Viroflay Spinach: Spinach originated in ancient Persia, and reached the Mediterranean region by the 9th century. By the Middle Ages, spinach was known in England both for its medicinal properties and for salad greens. Catherine de Medici, the beautiful queen from Florence, loved this vegetable and required it to be served at every meal; ever since, dishes served with spinach have been known as "Florentine." Viroflay spinach in particular is a gourmet French heirloom developed before 1866.

Viroflay Spinach Germination: Because spinach loves cool weather and can survive sub-zero temperatures when protected sufficiently, it should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in spring, or after the heat of summer for a fall crop. Gardeners in regions with warmer winters will be able to grow spinach all winter long. Sow the seeds in deeply worked soil 1/2" deep and 2" apart in rows 12-18" apart, later thinning the seedlings to 4-8" apart. For a continuous crop, plant more seed every 10 days until the summer heat begins; spinach seeds go dormant above temperatures of 80-85 degrees F. Spinach loves shade, and can be planted underneath tall plants such as corn or pole beans.

Growing Viroflay Spinach Seeds: Because pulling weeds can disturb the roots of spinach, apply a layer of mulch. Keep the soil moist but not too wet, since an imbalance in the water supply can cause bolting. If the temperature rises above 80 degrees F, provide some sort of shade.

Harvesting Viroflay Spinach: Begin harvesting the spinach leaves as soon as they grow big enough for eating. If only individual leaves are being harvested, take the larger ones on the outside of the plant. Otherwise, harvest the entire plant by cutting it off at ground level; new leaves will grow. If the plant bolts and sends up a flower stalk, the leaves will be much stronger in flavor but can still be used.

Saving Viroflay Spinach Seeds: Since spinach easily cross pollinates with other varieties of spinach, isolation may be necessary. For the best genetic diversity, save seed from 15-20 plants; do not save seed from plants that bolt early or have negative tendencies. Long days and warm temperatures will cause the plant to send up a flowering stalk. The seed pods will be mature soon after the leaves of the plant turn yellow. When handling the plant, gloves may be useful, as the pods can be prickly. The entire plant can be pulled to dry in a protected location, or left to dry outdoors if the weather is agreeable. Strip the pods from the stalk by running your hands up and down its length. Remove the dried leaves and other debris from the pods. The prickly pod can be removed or it can be planted just as it is. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to three years.

Detailed Viroflay Spinach Info: Spinacia oleracea. Also known as Monstrueux, Monstrueux de Viroflay. Annual. 45 days to maturity. 2,400 seeds per oz. 12-24" height. 2-3" spacing. Produces very large, thick dark green leaves.

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