What is spinach?
The delicate texture and beautiful colour of spinach adds vibrancy to many dishes. A warm spinach salad with sautéed pancetta, roughly chopped boiled eggs and seasoned with wine vinegar and a grind of pepper is delicious and packed with nutritional goodness.
Spinach originated in Persia (now known as Iran) over 2000 years ago and was introduced to Europe by Arab traders late in the 12th century. It was popular in England in the Middle Ages and nowadays it can be found in Indian, Chinese, Italian, French and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Spinach reached Australian shores as seed sent from England on the ships of the First Fleet.
Bunches of curly-leaf and flat-leaf spinach are available in Australia. Loose baby spinach leaves are also sold in supermarkets and fresh food markets.
Silverbeet is often confused with spinach. Spinach has small delicate, green leaves, whereas common silverbeet has large, crinkly dark-green leaves with a white stalk.
Why spinach is good to eat
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, B2 and B6, C and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as iron, potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Spinach contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of spinach supplies 50 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Spinach plants can be grown from seeds or seedlings and grow best in cool temperatures. Warm weather causes the plant to flower and become unproductive. The plants need regular watering and are ready to harvest five to seven weeks after the seeds are planted.
Mature spinach plants have about 10 to 12 leaves. You can pick individual leaves as you need them (from the outside of the plant) or pull out the whole plant.
Choose spinach that has bright, fresh, dark green leaves. Avoid selecting spinach with wilted, yellow, damaged or blemished leaves.
How to store and keep spinach
Store spinach in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Spinach will keep for a few days when stored this way.
How to use
- Try Greek spinach pie – cook spinach with onion, herbs and nutmeg, add beaten eggs and fetta cheese, spoon onto filo pastry and shape into squares, then bake until golden.
- Make a simple vegetable dish – sauté spinach with garlic, add a squeeze of lemon, season with pepper and toss with silvered almonds before serving.
- Add spice to spinach soup – sauté onion, garlic and fresh chilli, add cooked potato, a bay leaf and water, then add spinach, some coconut cream and blend in a food processor.
- Go for a Middle Eastern touch – sauté onion and garlic and add spinach and yoghurt, then season with cayenne pepper, a squeeze of lemon, ground cumin and lightly toasted mustard seeds.
- Put a twist on salad – toss spinach with fresh sliced strawberries, walnuts and goat’s cheese, dressed with balsamic vinegar.
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Better Health Channel
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