June 8, 2017

Spinach

Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae native to central and western Asia. Its leaves are eaten as a vegetable.

HISTORY

Spinach is said to have originally came from ancient Persia (modern Iran and surrounding countries) where it was known as ‘aspanakh.’ It is not known when spinach was introduced to India, but the plant was subsequently introduced to ancient China, where it was known as ‘Persian vegetable’. The earliest available record of the spinach plant was recorded in Chinese, stating it was introduced into China via Nepal (probably in 647 AD).

By the 1300s, it had spread to Europe and Britain where it was popular in religious communities, particularly during Lent. This is probably because it appeared in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods.

It was being cultivated in North America by the early part of the 19th century.

VARIETIES

The three basic types of spinach are:

  • Savoy: has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets. Some common varieties of Savoy spinach include: Bloomsdale, Merlo Nero (a mild variety from Italy) and Viroflay (a very large spinach with great yields).
  • Flat or Smooth-Leaf: has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods. An example of Flat spinach includes Giant Noble.
  • Semi-Savoy: a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as Savoy spinach, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. A common Semi-Savoy is the Tyee Hybrid.

FoodReach pantry - spinach

PRODUCTION

In 2014, the top 3 spinach producers (measured in tonnes) were:
1. China (22 million tonnes)
2. USA (350,400 tonnes)
3. Japan (257,400 tonnes)

Canada (5,600 tonnes) was #34 on the list.

NUTRITION

1 serving of spinach = two cups (85 g)

  • contains approximately 20 calories
  • source of Fibre, Calcium and Iron
  • good source of Potassium and Vitamin C
  • excellent source of Vitamin A

BUYING AND STORING

BUYING

  • Choose vivid, dark green spinach with firm leaves and stems.
  • Avoid spinach with excessively thick, tough or woody stem ends.
  • Spinach can be purchased in bunches or loose and partly stemmed in plastic packages.
  • Frozen and canned spinach is also available.

STORING

  • Spinach is relatively perishable and is best eaten as soon as possible.
  • Spinach can be quite gritty and should be thorough rinsed. Soak spinach in a basin of cold water to remove sand and grit. Change water several times or until the bottom of the basin is free of residue. Dry on a clean towel, bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

POPULAR USES

  • added to salads
  • cooked as part of a dish
  • blended into smoothies
  • made into a dip

FUN FACTS

  • Spinach was supposedly the favourite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” (Catherine was born in Florence, Italy).
  • During World War I, wine fortified with spinach juice was given to French soldiers weakened by hemorrhage.
  • Since 1931, cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man has been portrayed as a fan of spinach – and becomes physically stronger after eating it.
  • In the 1930’s spinach growers in the USA credited Popeye with a 33% increase in spinach consumption in the USA.
  • Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint.

FoodReach pantry - spinach

RECIPES

Have a great spinach recipe to share? Let us know and we’ll a link to it on this page!


SOURCES:

  • Wikipedia (May 2017). Spinach. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinach
  • Foodland Ontario. Apples. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/food/Spinach
  • Canadian Produce Marketing Association. Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from http://www.cpma.ca/pdf/HealthNutrition/NFTENJuly2016.pdf
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT Data. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data
  • Tyler Herbst, Sharon. (2001). The New Food Lover’s Companion (3rd ed.). New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
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