Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions.
Food features:The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.
Place of origin:Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran). Arab traders carried spinach into India, and then the plant was introduced into ancient China, where it was known as "Persian vegetable". The earliest available record of the spinach plant was recorded in Chinese, stating that it was introduced into China via Nepal (probably in 647 AD).
Nutrition:Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.
Dietotherapy function:Polyglutamyl folate (Vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells and spinach is a good source of folic acid, but boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content.Vitamin B9 was first isolated from spinach in 1941.