Spinach is a leafy green vegetable. Nutritionally, it's a real powerhouse, and it tastes great too. Find out how to store spinach to keep it fresh for longer.
Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned spinach. It can be enjoyed raw as part of a salad, or cooked as a side dish, used in anything from omelets to risottos, and added to all kinds of vegetable-based dishes.
More easy ways to use spinach include freezing it in smaller containers to throw into pasta dishes or smoothies. Spinach is great in smoothies actually because it has a very mild flavor and boosts the health benefits of the drink.
In the summer I often use these tasty, leafy greens to make a fresh salad and pair it with strawberries, walnuts, and feta cheese. This is a great way to pack a lot of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients into one dish and one of my favorite ways to make a light dinner when it's too hot to be in a cooking mood.
What is Spinach?
Spinach (Spinacia Oleracea) is a member of the amaranth family and is related to quinoa and beets. It's highly nutritious, offering Vitamins A, C, and K1, along with fiber, iron, calcium, and folic acid.
This green leafy vegetable is believed to have originated from Spinacia Tetranda, an edible wild green found in Nepal. It made its way to China in 647 AD where it was named the "Persian green".
The North African Moors introduced it to Spain in the 11th century and it was grown all over Europe by the Middle Ages. It was named the "Spanish vegetable in England but wasn't a Mediterranean cooking staple until the 1400s.
Catherine de Medici, a member of the Italian royal family in the 1500s living in Florence, loved spinach more than any other green leafy vegetable. She brought her cooks with her when she married into the French royal family. This is why dishes served with spinach are called "a la Florentine" today.
Spinach breeders started picking out and crossing slow-bolting spinach varieties with hybrids and disease-resistant types to come up with the delicious spinach used in so many recipes today.
How to Choose Fresh Spinach
The best way to make sure spinach is fresh is to support local communities by buying organic spinach from farmers' markets. This way, you know it will have been picked recently and not traveled far or been in storage for days already. You can also get fresh spinach from the grocery store, bagged, in a bunch, or in a plastic storage container.
Check the best by date if there is one. Even though spinach should still be good after that, it helps you choose the freshest bun or bag of spinach. Look for bright green leaves rather than wilted, yellow, or brown ones. Choose spinach from a cooler not from a shelf, and don't buy any containers or bags with excess liquid in them.
How to Store Spinach
When you know how to store spinach to keep it fresh for longer, you should get at least a few days out of it. The following storage techniques and tips will help you keep yours fresh and crisp, and eliminate food waste.
- Keep the spinach in the container or bag it came in and don't wash it until you're ready to use it.
- If you bought it loose, wrap it in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture.
- Raw spinach doesn't need much air circulation but it doesn't need to be in an airtight container either.
- Make sure there's no moisture at all on the leaves because this speeds up spoilage. If you see excess water, dry it off with dry paper towels.
- Kept this way in the crisper drawer of your fridge, whole spinach leaves should last for between 3 and 5 days.
- If you still have some after this and it's just started to wilt, you can use it in hot recipes like omelets, frittatas, pasta dishes, or as a side dish.
Although fresh spinach leaves will only keep for a maximum of 5 days in the refrigerator, freezing the remaining spinach is a good option if you have some left. Cook it for 2 minutes in boiling water and then plunge it into ice-cold water using a pair of tongs to stop the cooking process.
Use a salad spinner to dry it or pat dry with paper towels to get rid of extra moisture. Freeze it in portions so you don't have to thaw the whole lot at once. If using a freezer-safe bag instead of a plastic container, squeeze out any excess air. You could use ice cube trays for small portions of frozen spinach or individual small freezer bags for larger ones.
How to Tell if Spinach is Spoiled
Whether you're working with baby spinach or larger spinach leaves, the signs of spoilage in this fresh produce will be the same. Yellow or bad patches are always a bad sign and mold definitely means it should be thrown out.
Also, if you see excess liquid in the container or bag, this is a sign of rotten spinach. Since the shelf life of spinach is just a few days anyway, it isn't worth buying spinach of dubious freshness or buying too much spinach at a time.
I usually remove thick, woody stalks or at least the widest end from mature spinach because they can be tough but I leave the thinner ones on, as they are perfectly edible and soft. It's your choice whether or not to remove some or all of the stalks.
Interestingly, a lot of people choose fresh spinach believing it to be the richest in nutrients. However fresh spinach doesn't have a long lifespan and will have lost half its nutrients a week. Store-bought frozen spinach is frozen as soon as it's picked, locking those nutrients in, so in this case frozen is more nutritious. If you want to use spinach raw, such as in a salad, then fresh is better texture-wise. If you're cooking it though, it will come out about the same in terms of texture, so the choice is yours.
- March 26 is National Spinach Day - spinach lovers take note! And if you haven't enjoyed spinach in a while, treat yourself to some on this special day.
- The reasons spinach shrinks so much during cooking is because it is made up of 90% water and also because heat makes the oxalic acid in the spinach break down the cells and shrink.
- China is the world's largest grower of spinach, followed by the United States.
Once you know how to store spinach, you will be able to keep it fresh for longer. There are so many wonderful recipes using this versatile vegetable, including pasta and rice dishes, stews and casseroles, salads, creamed spinach, and so much more. It isn't only Popeye who loves his spinach - it's actually one of the most popular vegetables there is.