It’s time for another spotlight ingredient, and this time we’re making Popeye the Sailor Man proud. Spinach is a cool weather leafy green that I use in almost any instance where I would use lettuce, kale, or arugula. It’s loaded with iron and many other nutrients, so I’ll take just about any chance I get to throw it into a green smoothie or salad. Here’s a quick run through of everything you need to know about it before we jump into the leafy green recipes later this week!
How to buy spinach
Spinach is in season from spring to fall. Look for deep green leaves that are free from blemishes and have relatively thin stems (thick stems allude to more bitter leaves).
Varieties of spinach
- Savoy: dark green, crinkly leaves with a springy feel
- Baby: a smaller variety of savoy, this variety is tender and more sweet
- Smooth or flat leaf: broad, flat leaves, make it especially suited for commercial canning and freezing
- Red leaf: deep green color with maroon veins and an earthier flavor
How to store spinach
- Store unwashed spinach for 3 to 4 days in a bag lined with a paper towel or tea towel. Excess moisture will cause it to spoil faster.
- Store prepared bags of spinach (the pre-washed kind) until the date listed on bag (special preparation enables it to be kept for longer)
- Freeze spinach by blanching. To blanch, wash the leaves, then place in a boiling pot of water for about 30 seconds, or until leaves are bright green. Immediately scoop out spinach and place in an ice bath. From here, you can freeze the spinach for up to a year.
Spinach nutrition information
per 100 g (about 3 cups fresh spinach)
- Calories: 23
- Carbohydrates: 3.6 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g, 8% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 3 g
- Fat: 0 g
- An absolute ton of Vitamin K: A fat-soluble vitamin that allows for activation of enzymes in the clotting cascade, which is responsible for blood clotting. Also builds bone by modifying osteocalcin so that it may bind calcium, thus building the bone matrix.
- 187% DV of Vitamin A: Provides the provitamin version of this fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it comes from a plant source and your body converts the plant pigment into active Vitamin A. It is essential in many components of healthy vision, as well as immunity and cell growth/differentiation.
- 46% DV of Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
- 45% DV of Folate (Vitamin B9): A water-soluble vitamin that helps make DNA & RNA and metabolize amino acids.
- 15% DV of Iron: A major component of hemoglobin, the proteins that make up red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body. This is a non-heme source, meaning it does not come from an animal. It is not absorbed as well as heme iron.