Spinach

spinach

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Spinach became a U.S. pop-culture icon for two reasons before World War II: it gave comic-book character Popeye the Sailor Man strength when he needed it, and it was immortalized in the infamous "New Yorker" magazine cartoon, wherein a concerned mother hovered over her recalcitrant child, who stared disdainfully at his plate and said "I still say it's spinach, and I still say to hell with it."

Spinach has an illustrious history: in 647 AD, it was sent by the king of Nepal to his overlord, the Chinese Tang emperor Tai Tsung, as the best plant growing in his kingdom. Originating in what is now Iran (our name for the plant derives from the Persian word for it, "aspanakh",) medieval organic spinach was introduced into Sicily by the Saracens in 827 AD.

Because the oxalic acid in spinach can interfere with the body's absorption of iron and calcium, cooking the dark green vegetable with calcium-rich dairy products can be an excellent nutritional strategy. Stirring washed spinach into boiling salted water and then draining it into a colander as if it were pasta conserves the taste of the vegetable far better than the other low-calorie alternative of steaming.

The Winter Bloomsdale variety of spinach can live through the winter for early spring consumption. Spinach plants are remarkably heat-sensitive, and can bolt with alarming rapidity during a heat wave. It's for this reason that spinach is a definitely a spring and fall crop.