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What happened to spinach in recent years?

I like spinach, and used to buy and prepare it often. It was the dark green, curly, non-baby kind, which stood up well to being cooked and kept its "body" reasonably well (technically called savoy spinach), and usually came either loose or in celo bags. Lately, I can never find that type of spinach fresh in any store -- all I ever find is "baby" spinach, which is fine for serving raw as for example in salads but turns to a loose slime if cooked more than a few seconds.

Where did curly spinach go?

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  1. I don't think I've ever seen 'curly' spinach but I see this all the time:

    http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/...

    It's generally on the opposite side of the produce dept. from the bagged things. Over with kale and other greens.

    5 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I used to buy the type the OP is describing. It's different from the picture you linked. The stem and central vein were tough and fibrous, and definitely needed to be removed. I suspect doing that is too much trouble for *some* customers, incentivizing farmers to grow more of the baby kind. Also, spinach salad became fairly popular, and the latter is tender when raw. I haven't noticed curly spinach in supermarkets in a long time. But what miffs me more is that it's now rare to find entire broccoli including the stalks, in supermarkets. They sell the florets/heads only. I assume the packers make the stalks into slaw but I liked peeling and steaming them. To me, the tastiest part of the broccoli.

      1. re: greygarious

        +1 on broccoli stems. My local market still generally has both, so that problem hasn't struck here as yet. BTW, an alternative when you see it is kohlrabi -- the kohlrabi bulb, while of course shaped differently, is otherwise essentially the same as the broccoli stem, both from the botanical and culinary standpoints.

        1. re: johnb

          I do like kohlrabi but it is pricey here. Best of all is the "marrow" from the stalk of Brussels sprouts. The stalk itself is very woody. I use a cleaver to hack it crosswise into pieces that will fit a pot, then steam it. At that point it's possible to split it lengthwise and scrape out the creamy, light-green "marrow". What little yield there is is nutty and rich.

          1. re: greygarious

            Wow! You're willing to do serious work to get at the good stuff. I haven't tried that, but will the next chance I get.

        2. re: greygarious

          I looked at the picture again and that's really not what I was talking about. I also was referring to the ones where you need to remove the vein.

          Our groceries sell both types of broccoli. You pay more for the florets.

      2. I agree, Savoy spinach is great, but if the market demands baby, baby will be produced. You might have better luck at a more specialty store or asking around at a farmers market. Otherwise, I agree with C Oliver, if a store has Savoy, it might be more likely to live with the bunch spinach or loose salad greens than with the bagged greens.

        ETA: Also look for Bloomsdale spinach, curly and flavorful, I think that is what I have had and loved, not sure if it is a different variety from Savoy or just another name.

        1. Kale, spinach is the first casualty in Kale's plan for world domination.

          9 Replies
          1. re: JTPhilly

            So, only the baby spinach has been spared?

              1. re: 512window

                They can squeeze in more "baby" harvests rather than wait for the plants to mature >> mo' harvests = mo' money.

                1. re: ferret

                  anybody who's ever tried to gnaw their way through a salad made with mature kale will immediately be able to tell you why baby kale for salads is a good idea.

                  If you want to know what it's like, cut a waterproof tarp into bite-sized pieces and toss with dressing.

                  Equally as inedible as mature kale.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      I like the flavor of kale -- but the plasticky bits of kale ruined an otherwise really tasty salad.

              2. re: JTPhilly

                A recent story on Fox News asserted that Big Kale is being funded secretly by George Soros and gets lucrative, secret tax breaks put in place by the Obama Administration. What's more, Senator Harry Reid's office has called a press conference for Thursday morning at which he will release documents detailing the vertically integrated system that Koch Industries has in place to grow, transport, market, advertise, and sell kale.

                This conspiracy is deep and wide, my friends. Spinach must have really pissed somebody off. I'm pretty sure Hollywood is in on it. I mean, think about it - when's the last time you saw a Popeye cartoon?

                As to the OP - That's a very good observation. With the exception of at a local Farmer's Market, I almost never see "real" spinach anymore. I, too, miss the stuff.

                1. re: JTPhilly

                  ha ! Just like King Cran is seeking to dominate the world juice market.

                2. Check with your Farmers Market or CSA. Here in the Bay Area we have T & D Willey Farms that still grows and sells Bloomsdale Spinach super dark green and wrinkly.
                  As "Babette feasts" said start asking for it. If the Market demands it it will be supplied.

                  1. I've wondered the same thing. It almost had a 'bubbly' texture (literally knobby, not effervescent). I loved it for cooking and salads because it held its shape. I almost never make spinach salad anymore because the dressing just glues the leaves together and they lie in the bottom of the salad bowl in a pathetic, flat heap. And try to make a spinach salad with hot bacon grease dressing with the baby stuff. You end up with greasy, cooked spinach. Bah.

                    1. Curly spinach is still available, by the bunch, in my local Chinese market.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        That's interesting because that's one of the places I have looked (in Atlanta) with no luck.

                        1. re: johnb

                          And the only place nowadays where I can't find baby, or young, spinach is in my Chinese markets.

                          1. re: johnb

                            try korean markets. i believe atlanta has a few. months ago here in san francisco i searched in vain for spinach for a day. piles of it at a korean market the next day.

                            there were four kinds of kale and at least three colors of chard at a local whole foods, but only baby spinach, which i believe should be kept in a dark corridor out of sight.

                        2. Quite possible I'm wrong, but my theory is that it's profit based. If people are willing to buy the baby stuff, why spend the time and money to "let it grow up".

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                            They are different varieties but I agree that the Market drives what is available. Most people do not want to stem and wash Spinach anymore and are willing to trade texture and flavor for convenience.

                            1. re: chefj

                              Thanks for the info. As I was typing my reply it occurred to me that they might be different varieties but I was to lazy to google it.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  :-)

                                  True. I'll try harder next time - but no guarantees.

                          2. I don't know where it went for you, but I buy regular spinach at WF and occasionally at main line grocers. I'd ask your grocer to start carrying it again. I've never heard it called, "Savoy spinach" though.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: sueatmo

                              Savoy or Savoyed spinach. We can get it in the spring from local farmers. The little crinkles hold the dressing. It is the best. I think they still grow it but it gets frozen or maybe canned.

                              1. re: wekick

                                OK, I checked the spinach at my WF, and I found spinach, but not the the mature leaved kind I used to buy loose at Dierbergs Markets in St. Louis. What I found at WF looks to be only slightly more mature than the baby spinach you usually buy in bags or clear boxes.

                                I think I get what you are looking for, but I confess I haven't seen it in awhile either. I was off base in my previous comment.

                                Have you checked your local farmers' market, if you have one?

                                I used to love to braise the mature spinach with mustard greens or kale. I realized after responding to your post that I hadn't seen mature spinach in awhile, and I specifically looked for it yesterday at WF and today at Safeway, which IMO, is indeed safe. Too safe. But them's the markets I have.

                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  I went shopping at Safeway today.I saw different kinds of Spinach.I even saw some curly spinach.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Oh yea that Spinach looked fresh and Crisp.All Safeways Organic Vegetables looked very good.TJ
                                      could take a tip or two from Safeway.

                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    You are making an incorrect assumption. The curliness of the leaves of curly spinach does not come from maturity. Spinach does not start flat and get curly if it is picked later. So called baby spinach is simply a distinct variety that has flat leaves; the term "baby spinach" is marketing hype. Curly spinach is curly (or dimpled if you prefer) no matter when it is picked, and flat leaf spinach is flat no matter when picked.

                                    Read the comment by Eldon Kreider below.

                                    1. re: johnb

                                      Savoyed spinach was mentioned. There can be a big difference in when the savoyed spinach is picked in addition to whether it is savoyed or not. I think there are two things being commented on. Yes it is different from flat leaved spinach.
                                      There is also savoyed cabbage!

                                      1. re: wekick

                                        Yes. IMO Savoy cabbage is far superior to ordinary green cabbage. But that's a topic for another thread I suppose!

                              2. I can find curly/savoy spinach but I have to hunt for it. It usually shows up at a higher end grocery store or an ethnic one- Fiesta in my case. Otherwise, it's totally disappeared from the regular run of the mill grocery stores in my area.

                                I've watched the trend of pre-washed bagged ready to eat (or ready to steam) neatly packaged produce explode while there is less and less space for floppy bunches of leafy greens. I wonder if part of it is due to the E. coli outbreak back in 2006 and the later Listeria scare. Bunched savoy/curly spinach is some of the muddiest and sandiest produce I ever come across in the grocery store. Perhaps customers have been weary of it? Perhaps they avoid it in favor of the seemingly safer triple washed sealed plastic bag baby spinach or the orderly square plastic boxes that fit neatly into a refrigerator.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: PinkLynx

                                  ironically it has been the packaged varieties that have had the problems, no?

                                  i think the convenience factor is the driver for the bagged stuff.

                                2. Our local supermarkets (okay to wonderful) all still stock "regular" spinach. The farmer's market and Whole Foods have Bloomsdale spinach which has a pronounced ruffle and sweetness. seasonal

                                  1. I have never bought Curly spinach.I buy fresh Spinach.I have some Spinach in the bag by Dole.

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: Smiley881

                                        Spinach can be classified as savoyed, semi-savoyed and plain aka flat leafed. Seed catalogs describe varieties by degree of savoying. This is genetic, not curling that might come from staleness. Over the years I have grown all three types and can guarantee that they all were perfectly fresh from my garden. Savoying is not curling but refers to the dimpled leaf pattern that occurs in savoy cabbage.

                                        The advantage of savoying in spinach is that dressing adheres to the leaves better in a salad. The disadvantage is that soil adheres to the leaves very well, particularly if the spinach was grown in sandy soil or dark soils with high organic matter. Difficulty in washing soil off seems to be the main reason why so much large-scale spinach production uses flat or plain leafed varieties.

                                        1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                          Thanks for the additional information. What you say is largely true for serving raw, but in addition to the adherence of dressing to the leaves in a salad, an equal advantage of curly (savoy) spinach is that it cooks up so much better, which was my point in the OP. I like spinach cooked and served as a side dish, not just raw in salads.

                                          I guess folks these days are just too busy (or is it lazy? stupid?) to triple-wash their produce. Heaven forbid anyone should have to go to such effort!

                                      2. I can generally find decent Spinach-something that stands up to a bit of cooking-@ Indian food stores.

                                        1. I don't think I've ever seen curly spinach... the grocery store had two kinds - 'baby' spinach for salad and what they called 'cooking' spinach which were larger and darker green and was obviously the same stuff let to grow a bit larger...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                            see the above discussions about "savoyed" (curly) spinach -- different varieties.