Hello my dear readers,
Spinach is a vegetables with the fleshy green leaves and is among the most used fresh vegetables in our kitchens.
Famous for its iron content thanks to the famous Popeye, the strong sailor who fed on spinach and became indestructible, it has great nutritional values.
Let’s find out a little bit more.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) are herbaceous plants of the Chenopodiaceae family (also called Amaranthaceae), which includes Amaranth, Beetroot and Quinoa.
Spinach is one of the rare green vegetables so versatile that it can be used in both raw and cooked dishes.
It is a vegetable of very uncertain origin, and it seems to be the most accredited to the Persian area.
There isn’t a clear origin also for the name: some says it derive from the Italian “spinace”, originated from the Latin spina for the spiny fruit, others instead from the Arabic “aspanakh” or the Spanish “espinaca”.
The arrival in Europe was also mysterious, it seems that the Arabs or the Crusaders introduced it towards the year 1000.
Already at the beginning, particular virtues were recognized for this vegetable. According to al-Arbuli, Arab author of the fourteenth century, spinach had the ability to calm the belly and fight cough. Other scholars of the time attributed to it both invigorating qualities for the gums, and laxative and emollient effects.
It was not until the 19th century that this vegetables became widely used, first in Europe and then in America.
The intake of spinach is recommended in all low-calorie diets because they contain a lot of vitamin A and C, copper, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, potassium. This composition gives spinach a remineralizing, toning and cardiotonic power.
The high presence of folic acid also makes it a useful food to give vitality to the immune system.
Despite a fair adaptability to various types of soil, spinach prefers not too sandy or clayey soils and needs a lot of water.
Available from October to April, for the cultivation of spinach the soil must be worked and well drained. It can be planted after other crops, since it takes advantage of the residual fertility left by other fertilized crops. The seedlings prefer being shaded and in a fairly cool climate.
The plant looks like small tufts of leaves arranged in a basal rosette, dark green in color, triangular or oval in shape, with fleshy stem and smooth or bulbous texture, depending on the species.
Before the plant develops its small flowers, which can be yellow or green, it is good to pick it up. In fact, with the appearance of the flowers the foliage thickens and changes in flavor.
For continuous production it is necessary to cut the larger leaves, which grow on the sides, leaving the central head. If you cut the whole head, it is better to cut it a little high, to allow the plant to push back new shoots.
How to store spinach
You may keep the fresh spinach in the fridge for no more than two or three days in a plastic bag after having carefully washed and dried it. However, it would be preferable to consume it fresh because preservation makes it lose its crunchiness and flavor, as well as many nutritional properties.
Main use of the spinach
Spinach is a precious food in the kitchen for the preparation of tasty recipes, but it is also excellent to be eaten raw in salads, using spinach that is still young, tender and with smooth leaves. It can also be seasoned with vinaigrette.
To use it as an ingredient for delicious recipes need to be cooked, steamed, boiled, stewed, to then prepare croquettes, flan, pies or to stuff savory pies or fresh stuffed pasta, such as the famous ricotta and spinach ravioli.
Spinach is also very tasty in creams, added as a natural colorant in pasta and dough, but also in smoothies and centrifuged.
Stewed spinach, not boiled
To avoid dispersing its precious load of micronutrients it is not advisable to boil the spinach, but to stew it instead; put it in the pot and press the leaves with your hands to put more than the pot seems to be able to contain with the only water left on the leaves after washing. Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt, cook over high heat for 3-4 minutes, depending on the quantity. The leaves will go limp while cooking and will reduce very much; occasionally mix with a wooden spoon. They are excellent stews with a little bit of garlic, anchovy and pine nuts.
The cooking method that best preserves the properties of the spinach is steaming.
Other uses of the spinach
Spinach juice can be used to make useful compresses in case of sunburn, or to stimulate healing. In cosmetics it is very important for the skin.
Spinach’s nutritional information
Spinach contain very few calories.
As you know, it is very rich in iron and thanks to its 2.9 mg of mineral per 100 grams of fresh product, it holds the primacy among vegetables.
Unfortunately, however, despite being so abundant, 95% of the iron contained in the spinach is unusable as a nutrient, due to the presence of oxalic acid, which drastically reduces its ability to absorb calcium and iron. To assimilate the equivalent in iron provided by 100 g of meat, it is necessary to consume more than one kg of spinach.
To facilitate absorption, it is advisable to increase vitamin C by spraying plenty of lemon juice on it. Also useful are combinations with oranges, broccoli, strawberries, lettuce, kiwi, papaya, chilli, peppers, parsley, tomatoes, grapefruit and currants.
It is a good source of vitamin C, carotenoids, folic acid, chlorophyll and lutein, giving it antioxidant properties and making it a useful food for eye health, protecting the eyes from UVA damage that can cause cataracts, useful for those suffering from atherosclerosis, for pregnant women and for the protective action against coronary pathologies.
It is suitable for those suffering from constipation or anemics.
Spinach bring benefits to the immune system and increase the production of red blood cells.
It is useful in cases of hypertension and prevent high blood pressure. It also bring benefits to the health of bones and skin. Thus it reduces the risk of developing gastric ulcer and inflammation of the digestive system.
Due to the presence of oxalic acid, spinach can be harmful in the remautic forms and are also contraindicated for those suffering from kidney stones, osteoporosis or for those who have to recover from a bone fracture (oxalic acid also severely limits absorption of calcium).
Do you eat spinach? I must admit that I’m a big fan 😉
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!
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