The distinctive, slightly bitter/metallic flavour of spinach makes it something of a 'love it or hate it' food. If you're in the 'love it' camp, try one of our suggested recipes and prepare to love it even more.
Spinach is available year-round, but the freshest, tenderest spinach is most easily obtainable in the spring.
It is thought that spinach was first cultivated in southwest Asia. Trade routes through the Middle East took it to North Africa, from where it was introduced to Europe by the Moors by the twelfth century.
A cookbook belonging to King Richard II demonstrates that spinach was grown in England in the fourteenth century.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a flowering plant belonging to the family Amaranthaceae.
Spinach has a high water content and so reduces to around a quarter of its size when cooked. Buy lots.
Keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for three to four days.
Give leaves a good wash in a sinkful of lukewarm water to remove any traces of grit (if bought from a farmers' market) or chemicals (if bought from a supermarket), changing the water two or three times. Drain, or dry in a salad spinner if the leaves are to be eaten raw. Cut out any thick stems.
Spinach can be steamed in the water clinging to the leaves after washing. Give them 5 to 10 minutes in a large saucepan on a moderate heat. Sauteeing and microwaving are also good cooking methods.
Raw spinach is excellent in salads and, like watercress, has a natural affinity with bacon. Spinach also pairs beautifully with smoked haddock and with cheese, especially feta-style.
In French cuisine the term 'à la florentine' indicates dishes featuring spinach.