March 26th is National Spinach Day.
Spinach grows best in cool (not freezing) moist conditions, such as spring and autumn, and grows well in sandy soils.
It is a native plant of Persia (modern day Iran). It was introduced to China in
the 7th century. It was most probably brought to Europe in about the 12th century and to the US in 1806.
It comes in two shapes, smooth or curly.
There are three main
varieties of spinach: Flat leaf is the best known and most popular. Leaves are smooth and shaped like tear drops. Savoy and Semi-Savoy, the other two types, are wrinkly and more intense in flavour.
Spinach has an energy rating! Slightly less than half a cup delivers 23 kilocalories.
Just half a cup of raw spinach counts as 1 of the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables you should eat a day. A half cup of cooked spinach contains 10% of your daily recommended value of iron. Iron
facilitates the transport of iron to working muscles. This means increased energy and physical endurance
unlike most leafy green vegetables, delivers more nutrition cooked than raw. That means you can eat it Popeye-style, but it tastes even better heated, and best of all when purchased fresh and then cooked.
Spinach recipes in the 19th century (1800-1899) called for boiling the leaves
for 25 minutes! Apparently, some cookbook authors still thought it was toxic.
Spinach was the first frozen vegetable to be sold commercially. Thanks to the flash-freezing process,introduced by Clarence Birdseye. ‘Birds Eye’ were the first company to advertise frozen spinach. It did
so in “Life” magazine in 1949.
Spinach is a member of the goose-foot
family, which makes it a relative to beets and chard.
Spinach leaves are a
mild diuretic and mild laxative.
Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to
use as an ink or paint.
China is the world’s largest spinach producer with 85%
of global production. Reflecting its origin, spinach is still widely known in China as “the Persian Green”.
Spinach is best eaten fresh. It loses nutritional properties with each passing day. Although refrigeration slows the deterioration, half of the major nutrients are lost by the eighth day after
harvest. (For long term storage, freeze while fresh.) When fresh, it has crisp leaves. As they deteriorate, the leaves turn limp.
Oxalate, found in spinach, may cause kidney stones in some predisposed individuals.
A plate of spinach is the equivalent of a bear hug for your immune system.
can neutralize explosives - You read that right. Spinach enzymes neutralize explosives. The enzymes have a reactivity effect, which degrades explosives, turning them to low toxicity byproducts that can be reduced further to harmless products like carbon dioxide
and water. Don’t try it at home!
“Florentine” is a common part of names of
recipes where spinach is a significant ingredient. Florence in Italy was the home town of Catherine de Medici, a lover of spinach, who married the King of France in the 16th century.
In the 1930’s U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption – a welcome boost to an industry during the depression era.