Q: On the TV show “Jeopardy” earlier this winter, one of the questions was something to the effect of: “You have to wash off the grit from the curly- as well as the smooth-leaved variety of this savoy vegetable.” The contestant answered cabbage (my answer also), but the host said she was wrong. Another contestant then answered spinach, which was taken as the correct answer. Shouldn’t the correct answer have been cabbage? I have never seen savoy spinach.
A: My Extension colleague Dr. Wayne McLaurin says that spinach has much more of a problem with sand, because the leaves are more open and grow closer to the ground than cabbage. Once cabbage has formed a head, not much gets past the first couple of wrapper leaves.
Jim Fizzell writes in his Midwest Fruit & Vegetable book (Cool Springs Press, $19.95) that cabbages “may be green or red, smooth or savoy (wrinkled)”. He goes on to describe spinach leaves as either savoyed or smooth-leafed. “Savoyed spinach has puckered or cupped leaves that can catch grit splashed by rains or watering. Sometimes the grit does not wash out completely despite repeated attempts, and a gritty salad is the result. Commercial growers often avoid the problem by growing spinach on muck soils (black, organic soils, often called peat) that have no grit.”
Although you and I associate savoy with cabbage, the “Jeopardy” folks slanted the answer toward spinach by mentioning the grit in association with curly and the smooth leaves.