Some of us might imagine Popeye guzzling down some canned spinach when we think of this leafy green. The canned spinach made Popeye stronger, and increased Americans’ intake by a third when the cartoon was popular. Canned spinach isn’t so popular anymore, but there are a few varieties that we eat today. There’s Savoy (which has crinkly leaves), smooth or flat leaf spinach (baby spinach belongs in this category), and a hybrid of the two. Spinach needs a cool and moist environment and partly sandy soil to thrive in. This is why most of the United States’ spinach is grown in California.
Why is it beneficial?
Spinach has an abundance of beneficial nutrients for your entire body. Leafy greens are known for their high levels of iron, which is important for growth. It also has magnesium that activates over 300 reactions in the body. In addition to these minerals, it contains vitamins A, C, E, K, and some B vitamins. All of these vitamins work together to protect against free radicals and cancer, lower cholesterol, and promote a healthy heart, bones, brain, and respiratory system. The B vitamins in spinach–niacin, thiamin, and folate–work to convert carbs into energy. The body does not store vitamins B and C like it does the other vitamins, so it is important to eat them every day.
When is it in season?
Local spinach is found in the spring and sometimes fall when the weather is cool. Be sure to buy organic spinach whenever possible since it is one of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.
How long will it keep?
Fresh, unwashed spinach will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Eat it as soon as possible for optimal nutrition. You can also freeze spinach at peak freshness, just make sure to wash it first.
How can I prepare spinach?
Eating fresh, raw spinach is the best way to receive all the benefits. However, if you are prone to kidney stones, you might consider cooking it slightly to decrease the amount of oxalate that causes them. Also, if you are trying to get more iron in your diet, cook the spinach with a little lemon juice or vinegar to preserve the iron. Here are a few ways to get your dose of greens:
- Use frozen or fresh spinach in a smoothie. Bananas, pineapple, and strawberries all go great with spinach.
- Sauce it with garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute. Add an egg or two and scramble it together for a healthy breakfast.
- Replace the iceberg lettuce in your salad or on your sandwich with spinach for an extra serving of veggies
- Make this homemade spinach pesto to top your favorite whole wheat pasta with.
Eating more spinach might not make you instantly stronger like Popeye, but it will benefit your whole body and wellbeing.
Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.