By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
It took a big box of English spinach on special at the entrance of my local Greengrocer's to prompt me to buy it and I've been kicking myself ever since.
Having fallen into the habit of buying baby spinach every week I can't remember the last time I'd tasted English spinach, but last Sunday, alongside our poached eggs, mushrooms and avocado, I served wilted English spinach and had an "oh my God moment". It had so much more flavour than baby spinach - depth, earthiness, iron… and I felt like each delicious mouthful was doing me good. I am a convert.
The habit of buying baby spinach is because it does last longer when you're making green smoothies each day and for that reason I will continue to buy it. To serve hot however - and especially right now while English spinach is one of the top buys in the market - I'll buy English spinach and suggest you do too.
Not to be confused with silverbeet, which has big dark green glossy leaves, white veins and long white stalks, English spinach has a smaller, flatter spade-shaped leaf with green veins and tender stalks.
It's great to also know that cooking English spinach actually boost its antioxidant power. The heat helps to break down cell walls and release the antioxidants. Studies have found much higher blood levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, thought to guard against heart disease and lung cancer, from eating cooked spinach compared to raw. Another phytochemical found in English spinach, which is greatly increased by heat, is lutein,. Lutein helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
There is one more benefit to eating cooked English spinach - and other green vegetables including silverbeet, beetroot greens, and Swiss chard. Although loaded in minerals, these green veggies contain a compound called oxalic acid which bind onto minerals, such as calcium and reduces its absorption into the body. This is important for people who don't include dairy in their diet and need to maximise their calcium intake from other dietary sources. Cooking vegetables also increases the amount of magnesium and iron that's available to the body.
To maximise flavour and the nutritional goodness, English spinach is best steamed lightly or, as I like to do, tossed around a dry pan. After washing the leaves, toss the damp leaves around the pan and serve them as soon as they wilt. This method of dry cooking without water helps retain the most number of nutrients.
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