More Spinach Facts
- Spinach is a native plant of Persia (modern day
Iran). It was introduced to China in the 7th century. It was most
probably brought to Europe in about the 12th century and to the US in
- Reflecting it's origin, spinach is still widely known
in China as "the Persian Green" even today.
- Spinach is a member of the goose-foot family, making
it a close relation to beets and chard.
- In some countries, Silver Beet is commonly sold as
spinach. They are closely related and the nutritional properties are
- Spinach has an undeserved reputation for being high
in iron. In 1870, Dr. E von Wolf measured the iron content of spinach,
but placed the decimal point in the wrong position. This overstated the
iron content of spinach ten-fold. The mistake was not discovered until
67 years later, by German chemists. The myth of the high iron content
of spinach is still being wrongfully yet widely circulated today.
- Oxalate, found in spinach, may cause kidney stones in
some predisposed individuals. Not all kidney stones are oxalate based.
People who suffer from kidney stones should check with their medical
practitioners as to whether oxalate is a factor in their condition and
therefore whether they should eliminate spinach from their diet.
- Spinach is best eaten fresh. It loses nutritional
properties with each passing day. Although refrigeration slows the
deterioration, half of the major nutrients are lost by the eighth day
after harvest. (For long term storage, freeze while
fresh.) When fresh, it has crisp leaves. As they deteriorate,
the leaves turn limp.
- Cooked or raw? Both have their advantages. Whereas
cooking reduces Vitamin C and folate levels, it simultaneously boosts
beta-carotein and lutein bioavailability. A sensible idea is to have it
both ways. Have spinach raw in your lunch salads and cooked in your
evening dinner, for example. Some varieties of spinach are rarely eaten
raw, though baby spinach is common in salads. If cooked, it is best
lightly steamed to preserve nutrients as much as possible.
- When eaten raw, spinach should be very well washed
and dried prior to use. (A sensible precaution with all fruits and
- There are many varieties of spinach, though they
mostly fall into three distinct groups:
- Savoy (Dark green,
crinkly and curly leaves. Commonly found in supermarkets.)
- Flat/smooth leaf spinach
(Most commonly used for canned and processed spinach products, though
"baby spinach" also fits in this group. Easier to wash and clean than
- Semi-savoy (Hybrid
variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as
savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean.)
- "Florentine" is a common part of names of recipes
where spinach is a significant ingredient. Florence in Italy was the
home town of Catherine de Medici, a lover of spinach, who married the
King of France in the 16th century.
- In the 1930's U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye
with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption - a welcome boost
to an industry during the depression era.
- The spinach growing town of Crystal City, Texas,
erected a statue of Popeye in 1937.
- 'Birds Eye' was the first company to advertise frozen
spinach. It did so in "Life" magazine in 1949.
- California is today the US's #1 grower/supplier of
spinach, accounting for almost three quareters (3/4) of national
production. Other spinach-growing states include Arizona, New Jersey,
Texas, Colorado, Maryland and Arkansas.
- Alma, Arkansas (population approx, 4,700), holds an
annual spinach festival each April, organised by the Alma Chamber of
Commerce. Alma proclaims itself to be the "spinach capital of the
world", a title also claimed by Crystal City, Texas. Alma is the home
of "Allen Canning Company" which cans and ships spinach.
- In 2005, the national yield of commercial spinach was
approximately 350,000 tons and is growing annually.
- In March 2005, Bon Appetit magazine's annual survey
showed that 56% of respondants said that spinach was their favourite
- The U.S. is only the world's second largest producer
of spinach, producing a mere 3% of global production. China is the
world's largest spinach producer with 85% of global production.
- Spinach grows best in cool (not freezing) moist
conditions, such as spring and autumn, and grows well in sandy soils.
- Spinach leaves are a mild diuretic and mild laxative.
- Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach
to use as an ink or paint.