- There's a reason a certain cartoon sailor downs spinach by the canful. A half-cup serving of cooked spinach delivers 10 percent of the Daily Value of iron your body needs for transporting oxygen to working muscles.
- And that's not remotely all. Cooked spinach is also an excellent source of B vitamins (folate, riboflavin, thiamin) and vitamins A, E and K — and a good source of calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamin C!
Spinach has been nourishing Americans for hundreds of years. In 1928, after a New Yorker cartoon depicted a child refusing to eat spinach, the leafy green veggie temporarily got a bum rap. However, less than a year later, a certain cartoon sailor began appearing in comics, dramatically boosting sales of spinach (but, curiously, not of olive oil). Today, this delicious veggie is available in stores fresh, canned or frozen.
Spinach comes in three main varieties. The most common type is called Flat Leaf spinach: It has smooth, teardrop-shaped leaves, and can be found canned, frozen, blended into baby food or sold raw in your supermarket's fresh produce section. Two less common varieties, the Savoy and Semi-Savoy, have a stronger taste and more wrinkled leaves.
When is Spinach in Season?
Generally, you can buy spinach whenever you crave it. Most U.S. spinach is grown in California and Texas during the cooler months.
How to Choose Spinach
Fresh spinach is sold loose or in sealed plastic bags. Either way, be sure to pick leaves that are a rich, dark green, with a fresh smell and crisp feel. Skip over leaves that are wilted, slimy, bruised or spotted.
How to Store Spinach
Spinach belongs in your fridge's crisper drawer. If it's loose, wrap the bundle in a bit of cellophane. Most fresh spinach lasts for about a week. Frozen or canned spinach, on the other hand, will probably still be good months after you bought it.
How to Prep Spinach
Fresh spinach is so easy to prepare that you almost can't go wrong. Loose leaves just need to be washed, since the plant grows in soft, sandy soil. (Bagged, pre-washed spinach may be ready to eat as-is.) Place the leaves in a large mixing bowl filled with cold water, and shake them vigorously. Let any sediment sink to the bottom, remove the leaves, replace the water and repeat. Remember to pat the spinach dry before adding it to a fresh salad.
Most spinach is measured in bunches, cans, whole bags or plastic boxes (pre-packaged) or cups (chopped).
Since spinach is a mild, crisp, leafy green, it can be swapped out for any other veggie even vaguely matching that description. To preserve something of the taste, try to substitute dark green, fibrous, leafy greens, like kale, chard, Romaine lettuce or even mustard greens or arugula for a spicier flavor.
Spinach in Recipes
Start simple. Using nothing more than fresh spinach, jicama and strawberries, you can toss together a Jicama-Spinach Salad drizzled with lime juice, honey and vegetable oil.
Here's an old chestnut: a Spinach-Artichoke Dip accented with Parmesan cheese and garlic. Serve it with fresh veggies to make an irresistible crudité platter.
And how's this for easy? Toss one chopped apple, 12 ounces of Yoplait® peach yogurt and two cups of fresh spinach in a blender. Mix for two minutes. And voilà! You've got a cool, bright-green Spinach-Apple-Peach Smoothie that's ready to serve