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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