Spinach (Espinacas) is an edible flowering plantnative to central and south Western Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30cm. Spinach may survive over-winter in temperate regions.
The leaves vary in size from about 2–30 cm long.Spinach leaves that look fully alive and vital have greater concentrations of vitamin C than Spinach leaves that are pale in colour.The flowers are an inconspicuous, yellow-green.
Spinach is thought to have originated in Ancient Persia (modern Iran and neighbouring countries) and became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century. It first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, probably via Spain, and it gained quick popularity because it appeared in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods. In 1533, Catherine de› Medici became queen of France. She loved Spinach and insisted it be served at every meal. As a result, Spinach dishes are known as “Florentine”, reflecting Catherine’s birth in Florence.
Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables is rich in iron. A 180gm serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43mg of iron, whereas a 170gm ground hamburger contains at most 4.42mg. Spinach also has a moderate calcium content.
Spinach is sold loose, bunched, packaged fresh in bags, canned, or frozen. Fresh Spinach loses much of its nutritional value with storage of more than a few days.Do not wash Spinach before storing as the exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place Spinach in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the spinach, squeezing out as much of the air as possible.
Spinach bought in shops is packaged in air, or in nitrogen gas to extend shelf life. Some packaged Spinach is exposed to radiation to kill any harmful bacteria that may be on the leaves. Fresh Spinach retains the delicacy of texture and green colour that is lost when it is processed. Raw Spinach has a mild, slightly sweet taste that can be refreshing in salads, while its flavour becomes more acidic and robust when it is cooked. Spinach should be washed very well since the leaves and stems tend to collect sand and soil. Before washing, trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Place the Spinach in a large bowl of tepid water and swish the leaves around with your hands as this will allow any dirt to become dislodged. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water (two to three times). Do not leave Spinach soaking in the water as water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water. Spinach sold in bags has been pre-washed and only needs to be rinsed. If you are going to use it in a salad, dry it using a salad spinner or by shaking it in a colander.
The cartoon character Popeye is portrayed as having a strong affinity for Spinach, becoming physically stronger after consuming it.
In a recent study on the relationship between risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake, including, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnip greens and kale, only Spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer. A study on adult women in the late 1980s also showed intake of Spinach to be inversely related to incidence of breast cancer.