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Spinach in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae, formerly Chenopodiaceae[8]
Genus: Spinacia
Species: S. oleracea
Binomial name
Spinacia oleracea
Spinach, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 97 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates 3.6 g
Sugars 0.4 g
Dietary fiber 2.2 g
Fat 0.4 g
Protein 2.2 g
Vitamin A equiv. 469 μg (52%)
Vitamin A 9400 IU
- beta-carotene 5626 μg (52%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 12198 μg
Folate (Vit. B9) 194 μg (49%)
Vitamin C 28 mg (47%)
Vitamin E 2 mg (13%)
Vitamin K 483 μg (460%)
Calcium 99 mg (10%)
Iron 2.7 mg (22%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2-30 cm long and 1-15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3-4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5-10 mm across containing several seeds.



The English word spinach dates to 1530 and is from M.Fr. espinache (Fr. épinard), from O.Prov. espinarc, which perhaps is via Catalan espinac, from Andalusian Arabic isbinakh, from Arabic isbanakh, from Persian aspanakh, meaning roughly "green hand". [1]

Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran). Arab traders carried spinach into India, and then the plant was introduced to China. The earliest record of spinach is in Chinese, stating that it was introduced into China from Nepal (probably in 647 AD). [2]

In AD 827, the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. The first written evidence of spinach in the Mediterranean are in three tenth-century works, the medical work by al-Razi (known as Rhazes in the West) and in two agricultural treatises, one by Ibn Wahshiya and the other by Qustus al-Rumi. Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in Spain by the latter part of the twelfth century where the great Arab agronomist Ibn al-'Awwam called it the "captain of leafy greens." Spinach was also the subject of a special treatise in the eleventh century by Ibn Hajjaj. [3]

The prickly-seeded form of spinach was known in Germany by no later than the 13th century, though the smooth-seeded form was not described till 1552. (It is the smooth-seeded form that is used in modern commercial production). [4]

Spinach first appeared in 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. Spinach is mentioned in the first known English cookbook, The Forme of Cury (1390) where it is referred to as spinnedge and/or spynoches. [5] Smooth-seeded spinach was described in 1552. [6]

In 1533, Catherine de'Medici became queen of France; she so fancied spinach that she insisted it be served at every meal. To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as "Florentine" because Catherine came from Florence, Italy. [7] Because spinach was then regarded as having a major iron content, wine fortified with spinach juice was used to treat French soldiers weakened by hemorrhage [8].

Culinary information


Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach. It is a source of folic acid (Vitamin B9), and this vitamin was first purified from spinach. To benefit from the folate in spinach, it is better to steam it than to boil it. Boiling spinach for four minutes can halve the level of folate.[citation needed].


Spinach is considered to be a rich source of iron. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture states that a 180 g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 mg of iron, whereas one 170 g ground hamburger patty contains at most 4.42 mg.[9]

The bioavailability of iron is dependent on its absorption. This is influenced by a number of factors. Iron enters the body in two forms: nonheme iron and heme iron. All of the iron in grains and vegetables, and about three fifths of the iron in animal food sources (meats), is nonheme iron. The much smaller remaining portion from meats is heme iron.[10] The iron in spinach is poorly absorbed by the body unless eaten with vitamin C. The type of iron found in spinach is non-blood (non-heme), a plant iron, which the body does not absorb as efficiently as blood (heme) iron, found in meat.[11]

The larger portion of dietary iron (nonheme) is absorbed slowly in its many food sources, including spinach. This absorption may vary widely depending on the presence of binders such as fiber or enhancers, such as vitamin C. Therefore, the body's absorption of non-heme iron can be improved by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin C. However, spinach contains iron absorption inhibiting substances, including high levels of oxalate which can bind to the iron to form ferrous oxalate, which renders much of the iron in spinach unusable by the body [12]. In addition to preventing absorption and use, high levels of oxalates remove iron from the body.[13] But some studies have found that the addition of oxalic acid to the diet may improve iron absorption in rats over a diet with spinach without additional oxalic acid.[14] However, foods such as spinach that are high in oxalic acid can increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.


Spinach also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium decreasing its absorption. Calcium and zinc also limit iron absorption.[15] The calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources.[16] By way of comparison, the body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach. Oxalate is one of a number of factors that can contribute to gout and kidney stones. Equally or more notable factors contributing to calcium stones are: genetic tendency, high intake of animal protein, excess calcium intake, excess vitamin D, prolonged immobility, hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, and excess dietary fiber.[10]

Pureed Spinach & Homemade Cheese with Spiced Flat Bread Makki di roti from Punjab, India.

Types of spinach

A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern varieties. Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.

There are three basic types of spinach:

  • Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting.
  • Flat/smooth leaf spinach has broad smooth leaves that are easier to clean than savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods.
  • Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. Five Star is a widely grown variety and has good resistance to running up to seed.

Production, marketing and storage

Spinach output in 2005

Spinach is sold loose, bunched, in prepackaged bags, canned, or frozen. Fresh spinach loses much of its nutritional value with storage of more than a few days.[17] While refrigeration slows this effect to about eight days, spinach will lose most of its folate and carotenoid content, so for longer storage it is frozen, cooked and frozen, or canned. Storage in the freezer can be for up to eight months.

The Environmental Working Group reports that spinach is one of the dozen most heavily pesticide-contaminated produce products.[9] The most common pesticides found on spinach are Permethrin, Dimethoate, and DDT.[citation needed]

Spinach in popular culture

The cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man is portrayed as having a strong affinity for spinach, becoming physically stronger after consuming it. The BBC has reported that this portrayal is partially due to the iron content having been mistakenly being reported as ten times the actual value; a value that was rechecked during the 1930s, whereby it was revealed that the original calculations of the German scientist, Dr. E. von Wolf, contained a misplaced decimal point.[18]

Spinach, along with Brussels sprouts and other green vegetables, is often portrayed in children's shows to be undesirable.[18]

United States

Driven by fresh-market use, the consumption of spinach (Spinacia oleracea) has been on the rise in the United States. Per capita use of fresh-market spinach averaged 1 kg during 2004-06, the highest since the mid-1940s. The fresh market now accounts for about three-fourths of all U.S. spinach consumed. Much of the growth over the past decade has been due to sales of triple-washed cello-packed spinach and, more recently, baby spinach. These packaged products have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the packaged salad industry.

Tostitos brand spinach dip

The United States is the world’s second-largest producer of spinach, with 3 percent of world output, following China (PRC), which accounts for 85 percent of output. A cool-season crop that grows quickly and can withstand hard frosts, spinach is a native of Indian subcontinent and has been cultivated in China since at least the 7th century. Spinach use was recorded in Europe as early as the mid-13th century, with seed accompanying colonists to the New World.

California (73 percent of 2004-06 U.S. output), Arizona (12 percent), and New Jersey (3 percent) are the top producing states, with 12 other states reporting production of at least 100 acres (2002 census). Over the 2004-06 period, U.S. growers produced an average of 867 million pounds of spinach for all uses, with about three-fourths sold into the fresh-market (includes fresh-cut/processed). According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, spinach was grown on 1,109 U.S. farms - down 17% from 1997, but about the same number as in 1987.

The farm value of U.S. spinach crops (fresh and processed) averaged $175 million during 2004-06, with fresh market spinach accounting for 94 percent. The value of fresh market spinach has more than doubled over the past decade as stronger demand has boosted production, while inflation-adjusted prices largely remained constant. California accounts for about three-fourths of the value of both the fresh and processing spinach crops.

Like other cool-season leafy crops, most (about 96 percent) of the fresh spinach consumed in the United States is produced domestically. Although rising, imports (largely from Mexico) totaled about 23 million pounds in 2004-06, compared with 3 million pounds in 1994-06. During the last 10 years, exports (largely to Canada) have jumped 70 percent to 47 million pounds (2004-06), with much of the growth occurring earlier this decade.[19]

Per capita spinach consumption is greatest in the Northeast and Western US. About 80 percent of fresh-market spinach is purchased at retail and consumed at home, while 91 percent of processed spinach is consumed at home. Per capita spinach use is strongest among Asians, highest among women 40 and older, and weakest among teenage girls.[20]

2006 United States E. coli outbreak

In September 2006, there was an outbreak of disease caused by the E. coli strain O157:H7 in 21 U.S. states. Over a hundred cases were reported, including five deaths. The E. coli was linked to bags of fresh spinach, after which the FDA issued a warning not to eat uncooked fresh spinach or products containing it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a press release updating the available information. According to the FDA release as on 2006-10-4, 192 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) including 30 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome; there was one death and 98 hospitalizations. The infection affected 26 states. By early 2007, there were 206 illnesses and three deaths attributed to E. coli-tainted spinach.

Based on epidemiological and laboratory evidence, the FDA determined that the implicated spinach originated from an organic spinach field grown by Mission Organics and processed by Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, California. The FDA speculated that the spinach had been tainted by irrigation water contaminated with wild pig feces because feral pigs were seen in the vicinity of the implicated ranch.

2007 United States salmonella outbreak

On August 30, 2007, 8,000 cartons of spinach (from Metz Fresh, a King City-based grower and shipper, Salinas Valley, California) were recalled after salmonella was discovered upon routine test. Consumer advocates and some lawmakers complained it exposed big gaps in food safety, even if 90% of suspect vegetable didn’t reach the shelves.[21]

Other species called spinach

The name spinach has been applied to a number of leaf vegetables, both related and unrelated to spinach:

Related species
  • Chard (Beta vulgaris, Amaranthaceae), also known as spinach beet, silverbeet or perpetual spinach.
  • Orache (Atriplex species, Amaranthaceae), also called "French spinach" or "mountain spinach".
  • Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus, Amaranthaceae) and other Chenopodium species, also called "Lincolnshire spinach".

In Indonesia, the word bayam is applied both to certain species of amaranth commonly eaten as a leafy vegetable, and to spinach, which is rarely seen, only in certain supermarkets but well known from Popeye cartoons.

Unrelated species


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, Online Etymological Dictionary s.v. spinach. (WWW: Accessed 03/07/2010). [1]
  2. ^ Victor R. Boswell, "Garden Peas and Spinach from the Middle East". Reprint of "Our Vegetable Travelers" National Geographic Magazine, Vol 96:2 (Aug 1949). (WWW: Aggie Horticulture. Accessed 03/07/2010). [2]
  3. ^ Clifford A. Wright. Mediterranean Vegetables: A Cook's ABC of Vegetables and their Preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, with More than 200 Authentic Recipes for the Home Cook. (Boston: Harvard Common Press, 2001). pp. 300-301.
  4. ^ Victor R. Boswell, "Garden Peas and Spinach from the Middle East". Reprint of "Our Vegetable Travelers" National Geographic Magazine, Vol 96:2 (Aug 1949). (WWW: Aggie Horticulture. Accessed 03/07/2010). [3]
  5. ^ Jacques Rolland and Carol Sherman, "Spinach". The Food Encyclopedia: Over 8,000 Ingredients, Tools, Techniques and People . Toronto: Robert Rose. 2006. (WWW: Canadian Living. Accessed 03/07/2010). [4]
  6. ^ Victor R. Boswell, "Garden Peas and Spinach from the Middle East". Reprint of "Our Vegetable Travelers" National Geographic Magazine, Vol 96:2 (Aug 1949). (WWW: Aggie Horticulture. Accessed 03/07/2010). [5]
  7. ^ "Spinach," (WWW: The George Mateljan Foundation, 2001-2010). [6]
  8. ^ Maude Grieve, "Spinach," A Modern Herbal. (WWW: Accessed 03/07/2010). [7]
  9. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2005. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,
  10. ^ a b Williams, S.R. (1993) Nutrition and Diet Therapy 7th ed. Mosby: St. Loius, MO (Williams, 1993)
  11. ^ Juan, Stephen (2006-08-18). "Will eating spinach make me strong?". The Register. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Williams, Sue Rodwell; Long, Sara (1997), Nutrition and diet therapy, pp. 229, ISBN 9780815192732 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Insel, By Paul M.; Elaine Turner, R.; Ross, Don (2003), Nutrition, pp. 474, ISBN 978076370765,,M1, retrieved 2009-04-15 
  16. ^ Heaney, Robert Proulx (2006), Calcium in human health, pp. 135, ISBN 9781592599615,,M1, retrieved 2009-04-15 
  17. ^ "Storage Time And Temperature Effects Nutrients In Spinach". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  18. ^ a b BBC - h2g2 - Spinach - The Truth
  19. ^ USDA 2007, retrieved on 2008-02-01
  20. ^ USDA 2004
  21. ^ MSNBC, Spinach recall divides growers, lawmakers

Further reading

  • D. Maue, S. Walia, S. Shore, M. Parkash, S. K. Walia, S. K. Walia (2005). "Prevalence of Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Ready-to-Eat Bagged Salads". American Society for Microbiology meeting. June 5-9. pp. Atlanta.  Abstract
  • Overview of Spinach from Innvista
  • Rogers, Jo. What Food is That?: and how healthy is it?. The Rocks, Sydney, NSW: Lansdowne Publishing Pty Ltd, 1990. ISBN 1-86302-823-4.
  • Cardwell, Glenn. Spinach is a Good Source of What?. The Skeptic. Volume 25, No 2, Winter 2005. Pp 31–33. ISSN 0726-9897
  • Blazey, Clive. The Australian Vegetable Garden: What's new is old. Sydney, NSW: New Holland Publishers, 1999. ISBN 1-86436-538-2
  • Stanton, Rosemary. Complete Book of Food and Nutrition. Australia, Simon & Schuster, Revised Edition, 1995. ISBN 0-7318-0538-0

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SPINACH (Spinacia oleracea), an annual plant, a member of the natural order Chenopodiaceae, which has been long cultivated for the sake of its succulent leaves. It is probably of Persian origin, being introduced into Europe about the 15th century. It should be grown on good ground, well worked and well manured; and for the summer crops abundant watering will be necessary.

The first sowing of winter spinach should be made early in August, and another towards the end of that month, in some sheltered but not shaded situation, in rows 18 in. apart - the plants, as they advance, being thinned, and the ground hoed. By the beginning of winter the outer leaves will have become fit for use, and if the weather is mild successive gatherings may be obtained up to the beginning of May. The prickly-seeded and the Flanders are the best for winter; and these should be thinned out early in the autumn to about 2 in. apart, and later of resisting the penetration of the ointment into their substance. Pliny also recommends alabaster for ointment vases. For small quantities onyx vessels seem to have been used (Horace, Carm. iv. 12, lines 10, 17).

on to 6 in. The lettuce-leaved is a good succulent winter sort, but not quite so hardy. To afford a succession of summer spinach, the seeds should be sown about the middle of February, and again in March; after this period small quantities should be sown once a fortnight, as summer spinach lasts but a very short time. They are generally sown in shallow drills, between the lines of peas. If a plot of ground has to be wholly occupied, the rows should be about i ft. apart. The round-seeded is the best sort for summer use.

The Orach or Mountain Spinach (A triplex I ortensis), a member of the same order, is a tall-growing hardy annual, whose leaves, though coarsely flavoured, are used as a substitute for spinach, and to correct the acidity of sorrel. The white and the green are the most desirable varieties. The plant should be grown quickly in rich soil. It may be sown in rows 2 ft. apart, and about the same distance in the row, about March, and for succession again in June. If needful, water must be freely given, so as to maintain a rapid growth.

The New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia expansar), natural order Ficoideae, is a half-hardy annual, native of New Zealand, sometimes used as a substitute for spinach during the summer months, but in every way inferior to it. The seeds should be sown in March, on a gentle hot-bed, having been previously steeped in water for several hours. The seedlings should be potted, and placed under a frame till the end of May, and should then be planted out in light rich soil. The young leaves are those which are gathered for use, a succession being produced during summer and autumn.

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Simple English

File:Spinacia oleracea Spinazie
Spinach in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Spinacia
Species: S. oleracea
Binomial name
Spinacia oleracea

Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable. It comes from southwestern and central Asia. Its flowers are small and yellow.

Here are some perceptions about spinach that come from popular culture:

  • Spinach is traditionally not very popular with children[needs proof].
  • The famous cartoon character Popeye eats spinach in order to become strong.
  • Spinach has lots of dietary iron.
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