Spinach is native to the Middle East and was cultivated 2000 years ago in Persia.  This dark, leafy green comes in two main types – flat-leafed and savoy (crinkly-leafed).  Spinach is tender and mild in flavor, making it a popular vegetable to cook or eat raw in salads.  Spinach thrives in cooler weather; it is often the first crop in the field in early spring and continues through a hard freeze or snow cover in late fall.  Though spinach has a high water content (80-90%), it is also highly nutritious (particularly when eaten raw or lightly cooked), containing large amounts of chlorophyll and vitamins A and C.




Store refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to a week.  For longer-term storage, blanch for 1-2 minutes, drain, and freeze in an airtight container.


General Tips 

Rinse spinach leaves thoroughly to remove any lingering soil and dry.  Spinach cooks down significantly – 2-3 pounds of fresh spinach will yield about 2 cups of cooked spinach.  Steam one pound of spinach for 5 minutes or two pounds for 8-10 minutes.  Include spinach in sautés or soups, but add at the last minute as it cooks quickly.  It is also a good addition in baked goods such as crepes, quiche, and lasagna.  Finally, for the most nutritious option, enjoy spinach raw, as in salads, sandwiches, burritos, and more.


Chickpea Soup with Spinach

½ pound dried chickpeas, washed and picked over, or about 2 cups cooked

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh spinach, washed, trimmed, and coarsely chopped

6 cups vegetable stock or water

¼ cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish

If time allows, soak the chickpeas for several hours or overnight in water to cover.  (If it does not, boil them for 2 minutes, then soak for 2 hours; or just start cooking them, unsoaked.)  Put in a pot with fresh water to cover by at least 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour, or until tender.  Put half the oil in a deep skillet or a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion, garlic, a large pinch of salt, and some pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 pound fresh spinach.  (You might also stir in ¼ cup each of raisins and roasted pine nuts.)  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach wilts; turn off the heat.   When the chickpeas are tender, remove them from the heat and drain them, reserving their cooking water.  Add the chickpeas, along with about 1 cup of their cooking water and the stock, to the spinach mixture.  Mash with a potato masher or spoon until some or most of the peas are crushed (the final texture is a matter of taste).  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.  Taste, adjust the seasoning, garnish, and serve. (Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.)


Spinach Lasagna

1 pound bulk Italian sausage, crumbled

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 quart homemade tomato sauce or 1 (32-ounce) jar pasta sauce

8 ounces shredded mozzarella (2 cups)

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach

1 cup ricotta

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1-4 cloves garlic, minced; or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces lasagna noodles

1/3 cup water

½ cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large skillet or stockpot, brown the sausage and onion over medium heat; drain if necessary.  Stir in the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes (to heat through), stirring occasionally.  In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella, spinach, ricotta, eggs, and garlic and stir until well blended.  Cover the bottom of the 9”x13” baking dish with about ½ cup of the meat sauce, then layer half of the uncooked noodles, half of the remaining meat sauce, all of the spinach mixture, the remaining noodles, and the remaining meat sauce.  Pour the water over the lasagna.  Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil from the lasagna and sprinkle with parmesan.  Bake uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and the noodles are tender.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. (Recipe by Edith Thayer, in Farm-Fresh and Fast: Easy Recipes and Tips for Making the Most of Fresh, Seasonal Foods.)