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Popeye's favourite

Palak cultivation is simple. This nutritious plant is better grown in cool weather

PHOTO: P.V. SIVAKUMAR

HASSLE FREE The palak plant is easy to cultivate, and is quick growing, maturing within two months

Belonging to the family Chenopodiaceae, Sinacia Oleracea or spinach (Hindi - palak; Tamil - seemai vasali keerai or kasori, Telugu - paalakura) is a native of North-West Asia.

Spain is supposed to be the first European country into which this plant was first introduced.

It is a plant bearing both male and female flowers on a different plane.

Spinach is very quick growing, maturing within two months, and it can be grown between rows of late growing vegetables; the edible part being the leaves which are cooked and eaten along with salads, soups, chutney, curries and dal.

The cultivation of the spinach is simple, but it grows best in cool weather and in partly shady places. It is important to have the soil as rich as possible. The seeds should be sown rather close together in drills about a foot apart.

After sowing, press the soil firmly over the seeds and spread them out as they grow. The soil should be frequently stirred and watered freely.

If rapid growth is desired, use a top dressing of nitrate of soda and every fortnight this should be repeated.

If nitrate of soda is not available a top dressing of poultry and cow dung (well rotted) is also beneficial.

The best time to sow the seeds is June-July. Spinach can be grown practically round the year.

It can be grown in pots and tubes. Rich, friable, well drained, soil must be used. While the plants are growing it is advisable to cut off a few of the larger leaves. This induces stocky growth.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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