Spinacia oleracea L.
Family: Chenopodiaceae. Also in this family is Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa).
Spinach is an annual plant up to 30cm high, native to central and western Asia. There are three cultivars of spinach:
- The flat-or-smooth leaf spinach: this is the most popular variety, with smooth leaves, sold in most supermarkets and salad bars, mainly as baby spinach. It’s also sold canned or frozen and used as an ingredient in soups, baby foods and processed foods. It’s best eaten raw or quickly blanched and eaten, or sautéed.
- Savoy spinach (also known as curly leaf): has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves, and is usually sold in fresh bunches, in supermarkets. ‘Baby savoy’ can be used for fresh salads, sandwiches, dips and quiches.
- Semi savoy: has slightly crinkled leaves, so if you don’t like the challenging task of cleaning the crinkly savoy spinach, then this is perfect for you. It’s a hybrid between the flat leaf and curly leaf spinach.
Spinach is sold loose, bunched, packaged fresh in bags, canned, or frozen. (photo please). Fresh spinach is readily available all year long.
- Spinach should be eaten raw, sautéed, steamed, or quickly cooked. It retains its nutrients in frozen from so frozen spinach is okay to buy.
- 100g (3.5oz) serving spinach provides only 23 calories.
- Spinach has a high nutritional value, and is extremely rich in beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A and an antioxidant. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol).
- It has vitamins A, C, E, K and many micronutrients like magnesium, iron and potassium.
- It’s particularly rich in iron and contains more protein than most vegetables.
- Spinach and other leafy vegetables are low in the amino acid methionine. (Wellness Encyclopedia)
- Spinach also contains oxalic acid which limits micronutrient absorption in the body.
- Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be served in salads, in soups, in combination with other vegetables, or as a side dish.
- It’s also used as an ingredient in baby foods and processed foods.
- It can also be used as a bed for meat and fish dishes.
- Frozen spinach is less flavourful and can be use instead of fresh spinach in recipes calling for spinach.
Storage of Spinach
- Fresh spinach is best stored in the fridge because it looses much of its nutrients when stored for a long time. It’s best eaten fresh.
- For longer storage it should be blanched and frozen, cooked and frozen or canned. Spinach can be frozen for up to 8 months.
- The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition: How to Buy, Store, and Prepare Every Variety of Fresh Food by Sheldon Margen, Editors of the University of California, Berkeley