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Spinach

Everyday Food, Volume 11 April 2004

This nutritious vegetable is good raw in salads, cooked in soups and side dishes, and as a pizza topping.

Where It Comes From
Spinach originated in the Middle East, was brought to Spain in the eighth century, and became very popular throughout Europe, where the English used to call it the Spanish vegetable.

How to Buy
It is sold in bunches or prewashed in plastic bags. Always inspect spinach before you buy it. The leaves should be deep green and healthy looking, not yellow, wilted, or slimy.

How Much to Buy
About 1 pound of raw spinach will yield one cup cooked; count on two servings per bunch. Buy only as much spinach as you need, since it wilts fairly quickly.

How to Store
Spinach can be kept in the refrigerator for two or three days. Do not wash it until you're ready to use it.

Types of Spinach
There are two main varieties: flat-leaf and curly (Savoy). The flat-leaf kind can be broad and round, or pointed; the young leaves (baby spinach) are tender and delicate.

How to Clean
Whether you buy spinach in sealed bags or in bunches, pick through it first, and remove tough stems. Rinse the spinach from the bag once; spinach that came in bunches should be washed in several changes of cold water until there's no grit at the bottom of the bowl. Do not let spinach stand in water too long or it will wilt.

How to Cook
Spinach takes very little time to cook. Blanch it in boiling water or steam it for a few seconds. You can then squeeze the moisture out and saute it, or mix it with other ingredients.

Health Benefits
Spinach is rich in iron, vitamins B and C, and beta-carotene. The best way to retain these nutrients is to eat it raw or steamed.