Harvest of the Month: Spinach | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month: Spinach

Maria Martin

When you hear the name Popeye, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are like 94 percent of Americans, you strongly associate Popeye with spinach. In fact, after the Popeye cartoon made its debut in 1929, spinach became the third most popular childrens food after turkey and ice-cream! And, in the 1930s, U.S. Spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in spinach consumption a welcome boost to the industry during the depression.Spinach originates from the Middle East, most likely Persia or modern-day Iran. It made its way to China in the 7th century, where it is still called the Persian green, and was brought to Europe by the Moors in the 11th century. Commercial spinach cultivation began in North America in the early 19th century. Today, California is responsible for about 75 percent of the U.S. spinach production. The United States is the worlds second largest producer of spinach, but we produce a mere three percent of global production compared to China, the worlds largest spinach producer, with 85 percent of global production.One cup of spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Vitamin A helps keep your skin and eyesight healthy and Vitamin K helps your body stop cuts and scrapes from bleeding. Spinach is also a very good source of folate, Vitamin C and the mineral manganese. Although spinach contains both calcium and iron, its important to note certain compounds found within spinach, called oxalic acids, block some of the absorption of these two minerals.Finally, spinach is rich in an important carotinoid and antioxidant called lutein, which is important for vision and associated with decreasing the risk of age related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in individuals over 65.Is cooked spinach better than raw? Both sources are good, but when spinach is cooked it loses about 1/3 of its volume. So, cup for cup, cooked spinach has about three times more nutrients than raw. A serving of raw spinach is 1 cup and a serving of cooked spinach is a 1/2 cup. Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 587-3769, ext. 228 or mmartin@tfhd.com.Choose fresh spinach leaves that are green and crisp. Clean and pat dry and store for three to four days in a partially open bag in the refrigerator. Use spinach in salads and add to sandwiches and burgers. Spinach is great in soups, lasagna and other mixed dishes. Make a quick side dish by sauting fresh or frozen spinach with garlic, onion and chopped red pepper. Mark Estee, the chef owner of Moodys and Baxters Bistro andamp; Lounge, has shared his recipe for Spinach Relish. Mark sits on the board for Project MANA, is a founding member of the Slow Food Lake Tahoe convivia, and is passionate about simple, seasonal, fresh and LOCAL food. He believes that cooking and spending time in the kitchen, alone or as a family, will make everyones day a little better! Take advantage of the concentrated nutrients in cooked spinach and try this versatile relish on eggs, on toast as a starter, or on fish or chicken.

Spinach Relish 16 oz. fresh Spinach 4 T capers 4 T chopped green olive 4 T sun dried tomatoes 4 T chopped fresh parsley 2 T lemon juice 4 T extra virgin olive oilFresh black pepper 1 hard-cooked egg, rough chopped 1 T chopped anchovy* 1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add good pinch of kosher salt.**2. Have a bowl of ice water ready by the stove. Drop spinach in boiling water for 10 seconds and remove to ice water (this is called blanching) 3. Remove cooled spinach, squeeze all moisture out, pat dry, and coarsely chop4. In medium bowl, combine remaining items, mix well. Add the spinach and toss to combine. *If you do not add the anchovy, you may want to add a little kosher salt to taste. **If you have iodized salt at home I suggest getting rid of it in favor of kosher salt.

What do grapes, kiwi, spinach and squash have in common?These foods contain compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin. Some research has shown these compounds may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.Lutein is found in egg yolks, kiwifruit, red grapes, spinach, yellow squash and peas. Zeaxanthin is found in oranges, corn, mangoes and honeydew melon.The vitamins and minerals these foods provide are important and the potential extra benefits make them even better. Try to eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 21/2 cups of vegetables every day. American Dietetic Association (ADA), http://www.eatright.org