Originating from Asia, spinach is an extremely popular leafy green around the globe. When cooked, the taste is similar to silverbeet, however, spinach has a milder flavour. Spinach and silverbeet can be interchanged in recipes.
Baby spinach leaves are often included in salad mixes and sold with other salad greens. Baby spinach has round to oblong leaves with a mild flavour. Kōkihi, New Zealand spinach, is a native spinach which grows wild, has triangular leaves and trails over the ground. It is generally cooked as the leaves are coarse and slightly furry when raw. The flavour is similar to standard spinach.
Spinach deserves its reputation as a health enhancing vegetable, being a good source of both nutrients and phytonutrients. It is a good source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It is also low in energy (kilojoules). The phytonutrients of most importance are the carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin), flavonoids and other phenolic compounds. It should be noted that spinach contains oxalic acid which can decrease the body’s absorption of calcium and iron from spinach. Cooking can reduce the effect of oxalic acid.
Refrigerate in plastic bags and use promptly. Place a paper towel in with the spinach to soak up excess moisture in the bag and extend it’s life.
Spinach can be eaten raw in cold or warm salads or cooked and used as a side dish, in soups or pasta sauces.
Spinach is popular in egg dishes such as soufflés, omelettes or quiches. The classic dish, Eggs Benedict, includes spinach.