What if we put butter in our spinach? We hated them in the canteen and yet they are so good when they are fresh and well prepared! Let's reconnect with spinach thanks to its history and its benefits.
A bit of history to start with. Spinach comes from Asia Minor and the Arabs would have brought it to southern Spain around the year one thousand. In Arab culture, spinach was used for its medicinal properties against stomach and liver pain. It would have arrived in France only around the 13th century. Seeds are said to have clinged to Crusader clothing and horse hair and sprouted on the road. In Europe, spinach was considered the herb of Lent because it was of little taste. We preferred it in sweet dumplings called 'espinoches'.
Catherine de Medici gave spinach a reputation when she arrived in France in the 16th century. Moreover, in homage to its origins in Florence, a so-called "Florentine" recipe is a meat or fish gratin made from spinach with a Mornay sauce.
In the 20th century, the angry character of Popeye created by Elzie Crizier in 1929 anchored in the popular belief that spinach was rich in iron. "It's me, Popeye the sailor and if I get into the bacon, it's thanks to the spinach". However, with 2mg per 100g, spinach comes well behind legumes, cereals, red meat, shellfish and dark chocolate - good news for foodies - for its iron content. On the other hand, spinach is a concentrate of vitamins C, E, A, carotenes and vitamins B9. And notice to the constipated, the spinach called "stomach broom" would have laxative virtues thanks to its high water content.
In Europe, France is the leading producer with a large part of its production in Brittany and Picardy. We hardly consume it in its fresh form, it is one of the most popular frozen vegetables in France.
Spinach grows in a rosette like lettuce and is biennial like carrots. It is a mid-season vegetable because it likes neither cold nor hot weather. At Loaris, our permaculture garden, we sow and harvest it in the spring and fall.
Here are some recipe ideas we love. For a simple version: spinach cooked on toasted bread with a poached egg. In gratin with a nice piece of beef as an accompaniment. Or, with an Italian influence, with homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and local fresh cheese.
Marie-Pierre Dardouillet / Cepages Communication Agency