Spinach

Like all the dark leafy greens, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s high in the vitamins A, C, K and folate and is a good source of protein, iron and magnesium. Spinach is often incorrectly listed as a good source of calcium, but the oxalate acid content of spinach inhibits our bodies from absorbing the calcium that spinach contains. Spinach also contains lutein, an antioxidant which protects against macular degeneration, and according to the Mayo Clinic it may even boost your immune system. But unlike many of the other dark leafy greens, spinach can be eaten raw and requires just about a minute to cook. These two factors make spinach far easier to incorporate into your daily routine. From soup to scrambled eggs – you can toss a handful of the delicate leaves into almost any recipe during the last minute of cooking; boosting its nutritional content, flavor and color.

The most important factor when cooking with spinach is to wash it thoroughly before use. In order to remove all the sand and grit that clings to spinach, remove the roots and any thick stems then immerse the leaves in a deep container of cold water for 5 minutes, periodically swirling the spinach around so that the grit can fall to the bottom of the container, away from the spinach. To drain the leaves, gently lift them off the top of the water into a colander and allow the excess water to drip off. Don’t pour the water and spinach through the colander or you will dump the grit from the bottom of the container back onto the spinach. Once the spinach is clean, wrap it in a paper towel and store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Conventionally raised spinach contains high levels of pesticide residues – so high that spinach appears on the Environmental Working Group’s "Dirty Dozen" list of most pesticide-laden produce. Large farms and processors also have the opportunity to spread E. coli bacteria from a single field to thousands of packages of food. E. coli and other bacteria are "sticky" and aren’t easily washed off of produce, and you only need to contaminate a package with a few individual bacterial cells to render it dangerous.  While any field can be accidentally contaminated with E. coli, local farmers know theirfields more intimately than any large producer can. So in the case of spinach – there is no local versus organic debate – the best bet is to buy local organic spinach whenever possible.

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