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Spring Onions »« Snow Peas

Spinach

Spinacia oleracea


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

Well-known for making Popeye strong, spinach is about as close to a super-vegetable as you’ll find. With its vibrant green colour and attractively-shaped leaves, spinach has a mild flavour and is packed with good stuff.

This leafy vegetable is packed with vitamin A – eating it raw will give you the most – as well as vitamins B, K, C, and E. In addition, it’s an excellent source of folate, calcium, and, of course iron, and minerals manganese, magnesium, and potassium. And that’s by no means a full list of the goodies found in spinach. So eat up!

Choose spinach that’s not limp and is dry – sliminess indicates spoilage. Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge for a few days, but the sooner you use it, the better. Before using it, give it a good rinse as it tends to pick up soil and sand, and you need to remove all the grit from the leaves.

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History

Spinach is thought to have originated in Persia – modern-day Iran – several thousand years ago. It was only brought to Europe somewhere between the 11th and 13th centuries, when it was introduced to Spain by the Moors.

It quickly became popular in Britain and France as it was available in spring, when few other vegetables were and when Lent meant that dietary options were limited. It gets a mention in the first known English cookbook The Forme of Cury, published in 1390.

Uses

Raw or cooked, spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be added to a lot of recipes, even if it’s not called for. It works well in creamy pasta sauces, or serve it in a cream sauce as a side dish. For a quick tasty pasta dish, take two or three handfuls of spinach, wash it to get the grit off it, and chop it. Saute in butter for a couple of minutes until it’s wilted, and add salt and grated nutmeg. Stir in a good dollop of ricotta, toss it through cooked penne pasta, and grate parmesan over the top. You could also add ham or bacon.

Try to shake off or squeeze out as much of the water as you can after washing spinach, as it can have a tendency to go soggy.

Facts

Dishes served on spinach are often known as ‘Florentine’. This comes from Catherine de Medici, who married the King of France in the 16th century. When she left Florence for Italy, she allegedly insisted on eating spinach at every meal, even bringing her own cooks to prepare it the way she liked it. Eggs benedict with spinach instead of bacon is correctly called ‘eggs Florentine’ (and with salmon is ‘eggs Montreal’).

In Crystal City, Texas, spinach growing was such an important part of the economy that in 1937 a statue of Popeye was erected.



Spring Onions »« Snow Peas

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