Beloved for its juicy sweetness and high nutrition content, spinach is the rare green that doesn’t feature any bitter taste.
Spinach is believed to have originated about 2000 years ago in ancient Persia. It was introduced to China in the 7th century as a gift from the king of Nepal, and spread from there to India and the Middle East. Two hundred years later, Middle Eastern explorers introduced spinach to Europe. Its popularity skyrocketed during the Renaissance, thanks to Catherine de Medici, queen of Florence’s ruling family. Thanks to her love for spinach, dishes that include the vegetable are frequently said to be prepared “à la Florentine.”
Spinach is legendary for being extremely nutrient-rich. Its dense mineral profile includes iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and it has high concentration of vitamins B6, B9, C, E and K.
Thoroughly rinse spinach leaves and spread to dry on a towel (or spin in a salad spinner). When very dry, pack loosely in a plastic bag with a paper towel inside to absorb moisture. Spinach will stay fresh up to a week, but make sure to check every few days to remove any wilting or rotten leaves.
Spinach’s natural sweetness makes it an easy addition to just about any recipe. Toss a handful of torn spinach leaves into soups, stews, pasta sauces, even smoothies or juices for an extra kick of nutrition. Cooked spinach can be added to egg dishes, grain bowls, bean dishes, or dips, or stuffed into meat or fish.
Fry chopped garlic cloves in olive oil, then stir in a heaping spoonful of smoked Spanish paprika. Add several handfuls of fresh spinach leaves and a small amount of water, and cook until water is absorbed and spinach is wilted. Add a handful or two of cooked chickpeas, season with salt and additional paprika, and stir until heated through. Serve with more olive oil and crusty bread.
No need to remove spinach stems—they are tender and soften easily when cooking. They are also good for your health, with an extra dose of vitamins and minerals.