What is Spinach?

(“Spinacio” - “ Spinaci”)


The spinach, in Italian “Spinacio”, is a green vegetable available fresh throughout the year. Preferred and tastier in season which runs from the middle of February to the end of May and from September to the middle of November, it is available in the vegetable department of all supermarkets, conveniently priced and at the top of its flavor.
Spinach is a plant native of southwest Asia, not grown for food in the Mediterranean Basin until the Saracens cultivated it in Spain in the VIII century and introduced it in Sicily in the IX century.  
Spinach is cooked and used as a vegetable or side dish, sometimes used raw mixed in salads and in many variations of stuffings.
Because spinach contains large quantities of iron, it was believed that it was principally beneficial to women and children, especially because of Popeye’s comics and cartoons, it became popular, accepted and well liked by kids and grown-ups.

Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, B9 and K, calcium and other minerals. 
It was ascertained that it also contains oxalic acid which inhibits the assimilation of the iron and the calcium and in essence the main benefits that characterized this vegetable are proved not existent.

Eventually the fact that oxalic acid inhibits the assimilation of iron and calcium is advantageous to persons affected by varicose veins. In fact it prevents calcium to be absorbed in the system, including into the veins, also the large quantity of the vitamin K in the spinach activate a protein that blocks calcification in the veins, the primary cause of varicose veins.

In Sicily, in the ’50's spinach was not a popular vegetable with the housewife. It was expensive and when cooked it shrunk a lot, it arrived from the field very full of sand and required a lot of washing.

In the U.S.A. spinach is available washed and it only requires a rinse before cooking.

Spinach is a delicious vegetable to mix in salads, or to blanch briefly and sauté with garlic and olive oil.
As for all vegetables, buy them when fresh and crispy and avoid vegetables whose leaves are discolored or damaged by refrigeration or insects blemishes.