Everything You Need to Know About Cooking and Shopping for In Season Spinach

Devan

Editor

The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we’ll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To market, we go!

One of the most popular leafy green vegetables, spinach is synonymous with that one cartoon sailor—doesPopeye ring any bells? Although it might seem laughable, the character, who dates back to the early 20th century, was said to get his superhuman strength from spinach, and his immense popularity actually helped to boost sales and consumption (especially in children) of the green stuff. But are there any real, superhuman health benefits to spinach?

1. All the types of spinach to know

It's a vegetable you’re probably all too familiar with—whether in pre-mixed salad bags, wilted down in soups, or blended into smoothies—spinach can be bought frozen or fresh, canned or creamed, mature leafed or 'baby' sized. Available in most countries year-round, spinach is actually in season September through October, sometimes also popping up in spring between March and June.

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Made up of nearly 90% water, don’t be surprised (or worried) when you start with what you think is an absolutely ridiculous amount of spinach only to watch it shrink down to what looks like a teeny clump of sad leaves in a giant empty pot. It’s only natural, and most recipes plan for this—no harm, no foul. Just remember not to be shy with your portions when cooking it, as you’ll usually need much more than you think.

With its high water content comes another benefit: it’s low in calories. Each 3.5 oz (100 g) serving of raw spinach has only 25 calories and is loaded with other added benefits (though not quite as many as Popeye may have promised) like 3 g of protein, 50% of your daily value for folate, lots of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and manganese, plus a whopping 460% of your daily value for vitamin K. Hence the fact that it’s often called a superfood, ranking right up there with quinoa, kale, and chia seeds on many in the Internet’s seemingly endless cache of superfood listicles.

2. How to buy spinach

The most common variety you'll come across in the farmer's market or grocery store is flat—or smooth—spinach (both mature and baby), but you can also find savoy or semi-savoy which have crinkled leaves and are usually sold only in fresh bunches (as opposed to frozen or canned).

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When buying frozen or canned spinach, check the ingredients on the label to make sure you’re not getting anything you’re not asking for and always opt for plain spinach, as you can add any desired creamy, salty, and fatty components yourself.

When buying fresh spinach, whether in bunches or pre-bagged, look for crisp, green leaves and avoid those that look spotted, bruised, yellow, limp, wilted, or slimy. The smaller, baby leaves are milder in flavor and more tender in texture, making them optimal for salads and other raw uses. The larger leaves can take the heat, so chop them up and use for soups, stews, sides, and the like—but of course, you can use baby leaves as well!

3. How to store spinach

Storing spinach is both easy when approached correctly. It takes a bit of prep but will save you the disappointment of seeing your leaves go bad after just a few days.

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When you buy fresh bunches, store them loosely packed, wrapped gently in a paper towel, in an airtight container in the salad crisper of your fridge. This way, they should keep for up to a week. If some leaves are wilted or slimy, simply pick them out and throw them away, the rest should be good to go.

If you have a pre-bagged spinach, it should keep for a few days as is in an unopened bag, but once condensation starts to build on the inside of the bag, open it up, discard any gross leaves, and store them as above, only washing them (thoroughly) and drying (also thoroughly) right before using.

4. How to prepare spinach

Agile and versatile, you can do so many things with spinach, but the first step is to wash it—and wash it well (I’m not letting this go), then dry thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel, salad spinner, or paper towels. Even if the bag claims it’s pre-washed, you should always give it a rinse on your own.

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Once it’s both squeaky clean and dry as a bone (channeling Popeye here), you are ready to go. Frozen spinach should be thawed and any extra moisture squeezed out. You can then throw it into all sorts of things, from ravioli fillings to curries, lasagna layers to hearty, bean-laden soups. To use fresh bunches or loose leaves, chop them or simply add them whole to omelets and quiches, smoothies and juices, or simple sautés.

There’s been much debate about reheating dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, but if you properly cool, store, and reheat your dish, there’s nothing to worry about. To be extra safe, make sure to reheat any leftover foods to at least 75°C/165°F before eating.

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5. What to make next

Spinach and artichoke dip

Spinach and artichoke dip

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Spinach, salami, and mozzarella stromboli

Spinach, salami, and mozzarella stromboli

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Spinach and white bean soup

Spinach and white bean soup

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All week long, we’ll be featuring new spinach recipes on Kitchen Stories. Check back to see what’s new, then try one for yourself! Here’s where to start: