Leafy green gold – Spinach Lovers Month

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Spinach is often listed as one of the world’s top 10 “superfoods.” It’s packed with vitamin C and beta-carotene. One cup of fresh spinach gives you nearly double the daily requirement for vitamin K, which plays an important role in cardiovascular and bone health. You can add it to your eggs in the morning, on your sandwich at lunch and as part of a salad with dinner. Spinach can work equally well in a blended smoothie as it does in a lush pasta entrée. I am proud to proclaim that I am a spinach lover!

Fun facts: Spinach is a leafy green vegetable native to central and western Asia, originating about 2,000 years ago. It is mentioned in the first known English cookbook, the “Forme of Cury” from 1390, where it is referred to as “spinnedge” and/or “spynoches” (according to “The Food Encyclopedia” by Jacques Rolland and Carol Sherma).

Spinach belongs to the amaranth family and is related to beets and quinoa. Most of the carbs in spinach consist of fiber, which is incredibly healthy. In addition to the aforementioned vitamins, it’s a great source of vitamin A, iron, calcium and folic acid (a compound vital for pregnant women).

The plant itself is an annual which can grow as tall as one foot. Fresh spinach can be purchased loose, bunched or packaged in bags. It can also be canned, blanched and frozen. It’s a really cold-hardy crop that can be planted in autumn or early spring. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, spring plantings can be made as soon as the soil can be properly worked. Growers in more northerly climates can harvest early-spring spinach if it’s planted just before cold weather arrives in autumn. Just protect the young plants with a cold frame or thick mulch through the winter, then remove the protection when soil temperatures reach 40º F.

To harvest spinach, simply wait until its leaves reach the desired size. Don’t wait too long, though, or the leaves can become bitter. You can either cut the entire plant at its base or pick individual leaves off.

Or, if you want to be really extra and prove that you’re a spinach lover, you could take a road trip to the Popeye statue in Crystal Lake, Texas.

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