Spinach is an edible flowering plant of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), used as a vegetable.
It is native to central and western Asia.
Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran and neighboring countries). It is not known by whom, or when, spinach was introduced to India, but the plant was subsequently introduced to ancient China, where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”
In AD 827, the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. Saracen – in the Middle Ages, any person—Arab, Turk, or other—who professed the religion of Islām.
The first written evidence of spinach in the Mediterranean was recorded in three 10th-century works: the medical work by al-Rāzī (known as Rhazes in the West) and in two agricultural treatises, one by Ibn Waḥshīyah and the other by Qusṭus al-Rūmī.
Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century.
Germany knew about the prickly-seeded variant of spinach by the 13th century. Smooth-seeded appeared in the 16th century and was described for the first time in 1552.
Spinach came to England and France in the 14th century probably via Spain, and it gained quick popularity because it appeared in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods.
Since the early 19th century, spinach has been a versatile and commonly used vegetable in the United States.
Spinach is an annual plant growing as tall as 30 cm (1 ft). The edible leaves are arranged in a rosette, from which a seed stalk emerges. The simple leaves 2–30 cm (1–12 in) long and 1–15 cm (0.4–5.9 in) broad are somewhat triangular or ovate and may be flat or puckered. The flowers are inconspicuous and produce small dry fruits.
The three basic types of spinach are:
• Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets in the United States.
• Flat- or smooth-leaf spinach has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy.
• Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves.
Spinach has a large nutritional value, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled.
There are only 23 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of spinach.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein and choline. Additionally, spinach is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, pantothenic acid and selenium.
In addition to the nutrient richness of spinach in terms of these conventional nutrients, spinach also provides the carotenoids lutein, neoxanthin, and violaxanthin; the flavonoids spinacetin, patuletin, and jaceidin; and naturally occurring nitrates.
The health benefits of spinach include skin care, improved eyesight, stronger bones, stronger muscles, regulated blood pressure, preventing or managing diabetes, good for your heart, anti-cancerous benefits, prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and hemophilia.
This vegetable is available all year round but is in season during the spring (March – June).
Spinach is related closely to beets and Swiss chard and is a member of the goosefoot family because of the shape of its leaves.
The creator of the comic strip character, Popeye, E.C. Segar was a vegetarian and as a way of promoting the benefits of vegetables, he boosted his character’s strength with a known iron-rich food. Popeye has been portrayed since 1931.
On average, each American eats 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) of spinach a year, according to the USDA: 0.9 kilogram 2 pounds of fresh spinach and 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of processing spinach.
China produced over 90% of the world’s total quantity of spinach.