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Green Okame Spinach
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Green Okame spinach is a hardy plant that grows quickly and prolifically, allowing for multiple harvests per season. It produces upright clusters of dark green, multi-lobed leaves measuring 25 to 30 centimeters long. The arrow-shaped leaves are large and thick with a smooth surface and long, tender, edible stems. Green Okame spinach offers a succulent texture and a mild peppery, earthy flavor. Tender, baby Green Okame spinach is smaller, more delicate and milder in flavor.
Green Okame spinach is available in the late spring and through the summer months.
Okame spinach is a smooth leaf, Japanese variety of Spinacia oleracea. It is better known as “arrowhead spinach” in America, though the name ‘Okame’ is used more often to differentiate it from newer cultivars. Okame spinach comes in two varieties, green stemmed and red stemmed, and is a favorite of growers, chefs and home gardeners for its baby leaves. This variety is grown in greenhouses which results in more delicate leaves.
Green Okame spinach is an excellent source of antioxidants and has four times the beta carotene in broccoli. It contains carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and folic acid. High levels of lutein in spinach helps lower blood cholesterol. To get the most optimal nutritional value, eat Green Okame spinach raw or slightly cooked.
Green Okame spinach is used raw or lightly cooked. Young, baby leaves are used raw in salads or wilted in hot pasta or grain dishes. Mature leaves are blanched, steamed or sautéed. Chop and mix into soft cheeses with breadcrumbs, onions, mushrooms and herbs for stuffing poultry, pork, or other meats. Pair with Asian flavors like soy, sesame, garlic, mirin, and chiles. The thick texture holds up well in soups, stews, stir-fry and braising liquids. Store Green Okame spinach in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cooked spinach can be frozen and stored for up to 6 months.
In Japan, Green Okame spinach is used to make ohitashi, a dish of blanched spinach in a savory sauce often topped with bonito flakes. This is a popular method because the Japanese variety is thicker than the more common spinach variety found in America. Another version of Japanese spinach salad called ‘gomae’ is made with ground roasted sesame seeds in a sake-mirin soy sauce.
Green Okame spinach was developed as a warm season variety by the Takii Seed company in Japan. It was developed sometime in the late 1980s. Okame spinach is well-suited to warmer climates where there is no chance of frost. Okame spinach is slow bolting, meaning it holds up well in higher temperatures and grows well into the summer months. Green Okame spinach may be spotted throughout Southeast Asia, and at farmer’s markets or home gardens in warm regions of the United States.