Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a member of the (Chenopodiaceae) Goosefoot Family. The genus name Spinacia means “spine”, referring to its spiny seeds and the species name oleracea refers to a garden herb used in cooking. Native to Southwestern Asia, spinach was brought to Spain by the Moors of Northern Africa.
Greatly popularized by Popeye the Sailorman, spinach leaves are considered antioxidant, digestive, diuretic, laxative, lymphatic cleansing, nutritive, and tonic. Spinach has been used throughout history to treat acne, alcoholism, anemia, constipation, hemorrhoids, neuritis, obesity, and scurvy. Its high lutein content makes it a food of choice for vision weakness, night blindness, and as protection against macular degeneration. Spinach has traditionally been used to restore energy. It is considered a cancer preventative food, which has a special affinity for the lungs and large intestines. Spinach soothes intestinal inflammation, detoxifies the digestive tract, and promotes peristalsis.
Spinach has a cool, moistening effect on the body. It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B6, K, calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and chlorophyll. It is higher in protein than most vegetables.
Spinach also contains oxalic acid, which can bind to calcium and inhibit its absorption. Cooking or canning, converts the oxalic acid into an inorganic form which can be deposited in the kidneys and thus create a calcium deficiency, so using spinach raw is considered most healthful. Those that suffer from arthritis, gout and kidney stones are advised to avoid large quantities of spinach.
Look for dark green, unwilted leaves. Spinach grows best in sandy soil, so give it several rinsings before serving, to avoid gritty rocks in your teeth. Spinach makes an excellent addition to soups, dips, stir-fries, quiche, soufflés, and as a filling for crepes. Best of all, is do it raw.