Did you know that spinach is part of the beet family and is also among the World’s healthiest vegetables to eat? Spinach was originally used in Central Asia and grows best in cooler weather when the spinach leaves typically grow to the larger-size leaf we know of today.
Then, dating back as far as the Middle Ages, Arabs brought the vegetable to Europe where it quickly replaced other smaller-leaved relatives such as orach
. It seems that the first real knowledge of spinach came from Persia (about 226-640 A.D.) and it is also known that in 647 it was taken from Nepal to China. It is here that Spinach is known as the "Persian green."
Later when spinach arrived in Provence it became more popular than cabbage. In fact, during the 17th century, the philosopher, John Locke reported having a spinach and herb soup at the time of his travels to southwestern France. Spinach gained popularity in places such as Anatolia, Italy and Spain.
The Sephardic Jews also used spinach in dishes such as Shpongous, which was a savory baked dish incorporating sheep’s cheese and spinach and served on Shavuot, which is the holiday fifty days after Passover.
Today, spinach can be appreciated for its importance as a vegetable and its many qualities that include mild flavor, brief cooking time, but most importantly, nutritional value.
Although many vegetables lose some of their nutritional value, cooking also allows for better absorption of some nutrients too. When this vegetable is cooked, it naturally loses volume, but it remains very high in vitamin A and phenolic antioxidants and compounds, which can be protectors of our DNA against cancer-causing damage. Some other great things about spinach?
It also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese — as well as being a source of the antioxidant zinc and selenium.
Lastly, you can make spinach in salads, casseroles, with egg dishes or simply sauté it in a pan with a little bit of Olive Oil and garlic.
A little trivia: In one of Popeye cartoons
, Popeye is shown eating garlic to make him strong. This takes place in Roman times so that spinach is the main modern source of Popeye's power.