Returning home from mom’s doctor’s appointment in Canton, we stopped at Martins Farm Stand. I bought some tomatoes, cukes, dill and spinach. For some reason, although it’s already the middle of July, this is the first fresh spinach I have purchased this season.
Because it is considered nutrient-dense, and a good source of iron and calcium, spinach follows lettuce as our second most consumed leafy vegetable. It’s a good source of vitamins A, C, folic acid, magnesium and potassium. It’s high in carotenoids, which are reputed to fight cancer, as well as lutein, known to help prevent macular degeneration.
Many people consider spinach as inedible mush you’re supposed to eat because it is “good for you.” A century ago (in the 1930s) an advertising campaign featured Popeye the Sailor whose superior strength came from eating spinach. Few think of it as something that is delicious and tasty. That may be because, for many, spinach comes from a can — not from a farm or garden.
Fresh garden spinach is delicious. I like it best raw; cooked spinach needs a little dressing up. Fresh, chopped spinach is good stirred into risottos, lasagna, grain salads, pasta or grain dishes. It’s also good stirred into bean soups just before serving. And it is great mixed with eggs in quiches, omelets, casseroles, souffles and frittatas.
Spinach was cultivated in Persia (modern-day Iran) more than 2,000 years ago. The extended cool season of the mountains in this region makes it a natural; spinach needs cool soil to sprout and does not grow well in hot weather.
From Iran, it was introduced to China by 600 AD, and was known in Spain by 1100 AD. By the 1600’s, it was well established in most of Europe. Spanish colonists brought it west to the Americas. Clarence Birdseye produced the first commercially frozen spinach in 1930. California and Texas are the major producers of the fresh spinach available year-round at your supermarket.
Be sure to wash it thoroughly, as it often has sand clinging to it. The best way I’ve found to do this is to place the leaves in a large bowl or bucket, fill with water, and swish around; the sand will fall to the bottom. Scoop the leaves from the top, rinse the bucket thoroughly to get rid of all the clingy sand, and repeat this process until the water is clear, usually two to three times.
Buy large quantities – one pound of spinach will only yield about a cup when cooked. Don’t overcook! Long cooking strips away its texture and turns the color from a vibrant green to a dull gray. The flavor and nutrients also leach into the cooking liquid, so cook it just until barely wilted in a minimum of liquid.
Farro with spinach, garlic scapes,
tomatoes and feta
2/3 cup farro (2 cups cooked farro)
1/2 pound fresh spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can drained and rinsed)
Handful of garlic scapes (about 1 or 2 cups, chopped)
2 or 3 tomatoes
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Cook farro according to package directions.
Wash spinach. Chop coarsely.
In bowl, combine hot farro with spinach. Add salt, pepper and turmeric, and stir. Add oil and vinegar, and stir again to combine. Stir in garbanzo beans.
Chop garlic scapes, dice tomatoes, and crumble feta. Stir into farro.
Serve warm or chilled.
Serves 3 to 4.
This was a staple at our house when I was growing up.
1 pound spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated cheese (optional)
Wash spinach; place in saucepan with the water clinging to the leaves and cook just until wilted; you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if not enough is left on the leaves.
Drain off excess water; when cool enough to handle, place on cutting board and chop coarsely. In saucepan, melt the butter; add the spinach. Beat egg with milk and salt. Combine with the spinach; cook over low heat, stirring, just until egg has set, only a minute or two. Stir in bread crumbs and optional cheese, if using. Serve as a side dish with chicken, pork, fish or beef.
Or serve with young new potatoes and fried eggs.
Serves 2 or 3.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.