Made famous by comic strip character Popeye, spinach is now best known for its nutritional value and culinary versatility.
Eaten since antiquity, spinach is thought to have originated in the temperate climes of ancient Persia, where it is still eaten in vast quantities as an integral part of the modern-day Iranian diet. Indeed, in the Arab world, spinach is considered the “prince of vegetables.” From Persia, spinach traveled eastward to China. The Moors took spinach with them to Spain in the twelfth century, but it did not really find favor in Europe until the sixteenth century. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, betacarotene, folate, and calcium.
When buying bunches of spinach, look for those with broad, spade-shaped, jade leaves and undamaged stems. Spinach needs to be washed carefully in several changes of cold water to eliminate any muddy residue; first remove all the leaves and discard the stalks. A delicate green, prone to bruising and other leaf damage, spinach shouldn’t be stored for longer than two days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.