Taste: mild, slightly sweet, hearty
How to buy: Go for vibrant, crisp dark green spinach leaves. Avoid wilting, bruised or yellowing leaves. Bunched or loose spinach tends to be fresher and have more flavor than packaged greens. It’s also easier to judge the quality of the leaves.
How to eat: Supremely versatile. Great raw or cooked, as a side dish or on its own. Young leaves (baby spinach) are especially sweet and tender. Use the mild-flavored more delicately textured leaves in salads, and the mature and fuller-flavored leaves in soups and stews. Add to omelets, quiches, crepes, paninis. Great sautéed with olive oil and garlic as a side dish or wilted and tossed in pastas.
Delicious in smoothies and juices. Spinach is packed with nutrients, but has a mild taste. This makes it a great way to add nutrient-rich dark leafy greens to smoothies without adding much flavor and a good alternative to the strongly flavored kale.
There are three common varieties of spinach:
- Flat-leaf spinach – Tender and slightly sweet, can be eaten raw or cooked. This is the most common variety of spinach in the US.
- Savoy spinach (aka curly leaf spinach) – Crisp and slightly bitter, it is best for cooking
- Semi-savoy spinach – Crisp and slightly bitter, it is best for cooking
How to prep: Wash spinach thoroughly with a few rinses, even if pre-washed, as the leaves can still be gritty. To wash spinach, place leaves in a basin with cool water, swish and allow to soak a few minutes. Drain, and repeat.
The stems of spinach leaves, especially when cooked, are stringy and tough which makes them hard to eat. Therefore, trim any tough stems from fresh spinach leaves. To remove the stem, simply pinch the leaf together and pull the stem toward the top of the leaf. There is no need to remove thin stems or those from tender, small leaves.
How to cook: Cooking reduces spinach massively in volume. Once cooked, one pound of fresh leaves shrink into about a cup cooked spinach. Cook quickly to retain maximum freshness and flavor.
Avoid cooking spinach in an aluminium pot, as it will darken the greens and lend it a metallic flavor.
How to store: Consume baby spinach as soon as possible after purchase and don’t keep this green for more than 3 to 4 days.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Popeye’s favorite green is not only high in iron and vitamin C, it’s also rich in several carotenoids which, according to research, may support cardiovascular health.1,2 Carotenoids may also help protect cells and DNA against free radical damage that can cause cancer.3
- Ross A. (2006) “Vitamin A and Carotenoids.” In: Shils M, Shike M, Ross A, Caballero B, Cousins R, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 351-75
- Gammone MA, Riccioni G, D’Orazio N. Carotenoids: potential allies of cardiovascular health?. Food Nutr Res. 2015;59:26762. Published 2015 Feb 6. doi:10.3402/fnr.v59.26762
- Karppi J, Nurmi T, Kurl S, Rissanen TH, Nyyssönen K. (2010) Lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene as determinants of LDL conjugated dienes in serum. Atherosclerosis.;209(2):565-572.