- Food and Cooking
Spinach belongs to the kingdom of plants of the order of Caryophyllales and to the genus of Spinacia. Spinach leaves are consumed as vegetable worldwide. The plant is believed to have originated in Asia. Spinach takes one year to grow fully and complete its life cycle. The spinach plants grow up to a height of twenty five to thirty five centimeters. Spinach leaves have different shapes and sizes with longer leaves around the bottom and shorter leaves upwards towards the stem. Spinach plant was known to Persians,Chinese an Indian cultivators and consumers around three thousand years ago. Its use spread to other parts of the world like Europe by the thirteenth century. To preserve spinach, frozen and cool temperatures are preferred. Spinach is packed in canes or containers which are sealed off with nitrogen gas to preserve the flavor and nutrients of the crop. Temperature of the spinach containers are monitored regularly and maintained below the room temperature to avoid spoiling of leaves. Spinach forms an integral part in the cuisines around the world. Spinach have low shelf life. Spinach can be used to feed domesticated animals and pets. Rabbits eat leafy plants and spinach is used as food for feeding them.
Spinach is planted between winter and summer periods but the plant may be sown any time during the year except in a extreme climate conditions. As spinach can tolerate frost and cool conditions to a certain extent, so it can also be planted during winter. Tightly packed loamy soil is good for spinach but it grows well in other types of soil too. The soil should be well drained as water logging can destroy the crop. Spinach plants thrive in humidity. Harvesting spinach leaves can start within two months of plantation of seeds. Every hundred grams of spinach provides twenty three calories of energy. Spinach is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Spinach has a lot of cultivars. One of the cultivars is savoy spinach. Leaves of savoy spinach are green in color and are curly shaped. Savoy spinach is used mostly in American and European countries. Another cultivar of Spinach is smooth spinach in which the leaves of the spinach plant are flat. They can be readily cleaned and are used for multiple cuisines in soups, vegetables and canned foods. Other cultivars include semi-savoy spinach who have crinkly leaves. China, United States and Japan are the top spinach producing countries. Pests, insecticides and larvae can destroy spinach crops so pest control is essential for a good crop. Larvae like leaf miners and slugs feed on spinach leaves. This hampers the quality of the leaves obtained as they get hollowed or tanned. Viruses like spinach blight cause yellowing or withering of spinach leaves. Spinach needs soil which is rich in nitrogen and organic matter and hence good use of fertilizers is essential for the crop. To control pests and diseases in spinach cultivation, certain precautions are necessary. Fresh seeds should be sown for spinach farming as spinach seeds have low storage life. Soils infested with fusarium should not be used to plant spinach as it causes premature wilting of the crop and reduces the yield of harvested crop. Also the harvested crop has soiled leaves which turn yellow or brown. Spinach should be consumed as soon as possible after harvesting the plant. The harvested crop can get destroyed because of insecticides present in the cultivated crop. So spinach leaves are washed and treated properly after cultivation is complete. Dirt and other contaminants are washed off as well.
Spinach is cooked by boiling or steaming with moisture. Spinach is cut and cooked with spices and consumed as a vegetable. Cheese, potato, tomatoes and many vegetables and non-vegetarian food is added and fried with spinach to make various dishes according to the region. Spinach is also used in salads as an ingredient. As spinach contains a lot of nutrients, vitamins and dietary fibers, consumption of spinach is good for health in humans as well as domesticated animals. Spinach helps in controlling the sugar level in the blood and lowers blood pressure. Eating spinach lowers the risk of cancer and asthma. Antioxidants in spinach are very helpful for patients suffering from diabetes. Vitamin K in spinach helps calcium absorption in bones and improves bone health. Spinach is rich in fiber which helps in digestion. Spinach is rich in iron and vitamin A and this helps in prevention of hair loss and keeps the hair moisturized. Spinach is usually not recommended for a patient suffering from kidney stones. Spinach juice is very nutritious for body and health. Spinach juice helps in creating red blood cells in the body and reduces the risk of anemia. Spinach is alkaline in nature and this is beneficial for patients suffering form arthritis. Spinach juice helps in relieving oral ad dental problems in people suffering from bleeding gums as it is rich in Vitamin C.