Know your Spinach

  • Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae
  • It is native to central and southwestern Asia. 
  • It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. S
  • pinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. 
  • The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2-30 cm long and 1-15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. 
  • The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3-4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5-10 mm across containing several seeds.

  • A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern varieties. 
  • Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. 
  • Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. 
  • The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. 
  • Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.
  • There are three basic types of spinach:

Savoy Spinach

  • Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves, see photo above right. 
  • It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets. 
  • One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting.

Flat/smooth leaf spinach

  • Flat/smooth leaf spinach, also known as baby spinach, has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than savoy. 
  • This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods.
  • Because it is easiest to wash, flat-leaf spinach is predicted to become the dominant variety grown and sold in supermarkets.

Semi-Savoy spinach

  • Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. 
  • It has the same texture as savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. 
  • It is grown for both fresh market and processing. 
  • Five Star is a widely grown variety and has good resistance to running up to seed.
  • To store, refrigerate in a plastic bag. 
  • A relatively good keeper, use within seven to ten days. 

  • Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. 
  • It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach. 
  • It is a source of folic acid (Vitamin B9), and this vitamin was first purified from spinach. 
  • To benefit from the folate in spinach, it is better to steam it than to boil it. Boiling spinach for four minutes can halve the level of folate.