Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia.
In popular folklore, spinach is a rich source of iron. In reality, a 60 gram serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron (slightly more when eaten raw). A good many green vegetables contain less than 1 mg of iron for an equivalent serving. Hence spinach does contain a relatively high level of iron for a vegetable, but its consumption does not have special health connotations as folklore might suggest.
Spinach also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach binds with calcium decreasing its absorption. By way of comparison, the body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach. Oxalate is one of a number of factors that can contribute to gout and kidney stones.
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 3 basic types of Spinach:
- Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. 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 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.
- 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.
In Australia, a significant percentage of people erroneously identify chard (locally known as silverbeet) as spinach, despite the fact that both spinach and chard are labelled appropriately in stores.
» Find recipes containing spinach
The encyclopedia texts are available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.