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Selection

At the supermarket, you can find spinach packaged fresh, canned, or frozen. Fresh spinach is usually found loose or bagged. For the best quality, select leaves that are green and crisp, with a nice fresh fragrance. Avoid leaves that are limp, damaged, or spotted. If you are in a rush, grab a bag of fresh, pre-washed spinach. The ready-to-eat packaging makes it easy to be on the go and still stay healthy.

Storage

Fresh spinach should be dried and packed loosely in a cellophane or plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator crisper. If stored properly, it should last 3 or 4 days.


Varieties

Flat or Smooth Leaf

Flat or smooth leaf spinach has unwrinkled, spade-shaped leaves that have a milder taste than the savoy. This variety is commonly used for canned and frozen spinach as well as for soups, baby foods, and other processed foods.

Savoy

Savoy has crinkly, dark green curly leaves. The texture is different from the flat leaf but tastes equally as good. Look for fresh bunches of savoy at your local market.

Semi-Savoy

Increasing in popularity is the semi-savoy variety, which has slightly curly leaves. The slightly curly leaves have a similar texture to the savoy leaves but are easier to clean. This variety is usually sold fresh. It is also found in processed foods.

Fresh spinach is available all year. Major supplies come from Texas and California where it grows as a cool winter crop.

Preparation

Spinach grows in sandy soil, so wash it thoroughly to get rid of the grainy, sandy particles. Make sure to tear off the stem. Separate the leaves, and place them in a large bowl of water. Gently wash leaves, and let the sand drift to the bottom of the bowl. Remove leaves from the water, and repeat the process with fresh water until the leaves are clean.

If spinach is to be eaten raw, dry it completely by using a salad spinner or by blotting it with paper towels. Slightly damp spinach can be steamed or microwaved without adding any additional water.

Blanching

Drop leaves into a large pot of boiling water. Once the leaves slightly wilt, drain and squeeze out excess moisture. This method is used to quick-cook spinach or to prepare it for sautéing, braising, or stuffing, and usually takes 2 to 5 minutes.

Microwaving

This method can be used instead of blanching. Place washed, slightly wet spinach in a microwavable dish, loosely cover, and cook until tender (4 to 7 minutes for ½ pound of spinach).

Sautèing

Blanched spinach can be sautèed quickly with a quick spray of oil. If cooked in a non-stick pan, only a spray is needed for several cups of chopped spinach. Try adding some garlic for flavor.

Steaming
If you plan to steam the spinach, do not dry leaves after washing. Steamed spinach makes a great side dish and usually takes only 5 to 10 minutes.

Recipes

Chicken Florentine

Serves 4

Each serving equals 3/4 cup of fruit or vegetables
This is an official Fruits & Veggies—More Matters recipe (source: Produce for Better Health Foundation).

Ingredients

4 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves, washed with stems removed, or 1 (10 oz) package frozen, chopped spinach
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed or 2 tsp fresh
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 grilled or roasted skinless chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
2 lemons, to yield 2 Tbsp grated lemon peel and 4 lemon wedges for garnish

Place spinach in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook until fresh spinach is wilted or frozen spinach is heated through. Spinach should have a dark, rich green color. Do not overcook, or the spinach will change color. Remove spinach, and drain well.

In the same skillet, heat thyme with oil, garlic, and onion. Sauté until onion is transparent. Stir in flour until it disappears. Add broth and stir continuously until a thickened sauce is formed. Return chopped spinach to sauce and mix well. Heat and adjust seasonings, if desired.

Stir half the chicken into sauce. To serve, spoon equal amounts in four small casseroles. Top each with equal portions of remaining chicken and ½ Tbsp grated lemon peel. Place in preheated 300° F oven for 10 minutes. Serve piping hot with a lemon wedge.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 220, Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Calories From Fat 29%, Carbohydrates 8g, Cholesterol 75mg, Fiber 3g, Sodium 150mg.




Cooked Spinach

Raw Spinach
Serving Size 1/2 cup (90g) Amounts Per Serving % Daily Value
Calories 20  
Calories from Fat 0  
Total Fat 0g 0%
Sodium 65mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
  Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
  Sugars 0g 
Protein 3g 
Vitamin A 190%
Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 10%
Iron 20%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Serving Size 1/2 cup, chopped (30g)Amounts Per Serving % Daily Value
Calories 5  
Calories from Fat 0  
Total Fat 0g 0%
Sodium 25mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
  Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
  Sugars 0g 
Protein 1g 
Vitamin A 60%
Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 2%
Iron 4%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Spinach
Spinach is believed to be of Persian origin and introduced into Europe in the 15th century (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia). Since the early 19th century, spinach has been a versatile and commonly used vegetable in the United States. Eating and preparing spinach is simple and easy, since it tastes good raw or cooked. Spinach can be found fresh, frozen, or canned; it can be easily incorporated into many dishes. Its versatility makes it easy to serve raw in salads or sandwiches or as a complement to soups, meat, fish, or other vegetable dishes.

In addition to being tasty, spinach’s popularity stems from its high nutritional value. Not only is spinach low in calories, it is also a good source of essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C.