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Volume 9 Issue 1
May/June 2003

Destiny Leads to Discovery of Johnson's Landing Retreat

Spinach! Spring!

Saskatoon Community Bicycle Program

Circles, Sound, and Creation


Spinach! Spring!
by Paulette Millis

We know spring is here when voluntary spinach is popping up in our garden patch! Popeye swallowed spinach by the can-full, gave himself amazing strength, and performed herculean feats, humorously leading us all to believe in the necessity of eating copious amounts of spinach. Thus it was, for years, forced down the throats of countless unwilling children.

Spinach, spinacia oleracea, originating in Persia and Iran, was cultivated for many centuries before the creation of Popeye. European immigrants brought it to the US and by 1806 commercial cultivation began.

A member of the goosefoot family, spinach is a cool weather plant. It is a leafy annual that matures very quickly and is very hardy. It has broad, crinkly, tender leaves that can be used either as a salad green or as a vegetable. Let some of your spinach go to seed in the summer and it will come up early in spring, before the garden is ready to be tilled.

Consumption of fresh spinach fell between 1957 and 1973 by 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per capita. Growers do their best to market the greens by washing and bagging them as many cooks complain about the time needed to wash the sand out of the fresh green leaves. Dr. Thurman B. Rice of the Indiana State Board of Health says, "If God had intended for us to eat spinach, he would have flavoured it with something." Check the recipe section for some mouth watering spinach dishes!

As the chart shows, spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and iron. Dr. Jensen states it leaves an alkaline ash in the body (healthy) and is good for the lymphatic, urinary, and digestive systems. Spinach also has significant amounts of potassium and calcium but it also contains oxalic acid, which combines with calcium and renders it unusable in the body. This is not important in the ordinary diet, and only becomes so if someone ingested a large amount of spinach juice. This may cause disturbing results in the joints.

Spinach is very low in calories, having about 23 calories per 3-1/2 ounces of cooked and drained spinach, and as it is also a mild laxative, this is excellent diet food!

Spinach contains the following phytochemicals (plant chemicals): indoles, carotenoids, and isothiocyanates which neutralize free radicals, stimulate anticancer enzymes, are useful in asthma, and help deactivate harmful estrogens.

Consider adding spinach, raw and cooked, to your weekly menus, for a powerhouse of nutrients!

Nutrients per pound:
calories 89
  iron 13.6 mg  
  protein 10.4 g  
  vitamin A 26,450 i.u.  
  fat 1.4 g  
  thiamine 50 mg  
  carbohydrates 14.5 g  
  riboflavin 93 mg  
  calcium 368 mg  
  niacin 2.7 mg  
  phosphorus 167 mg  
  ascorbic acid (Vit. C) 167 mg  
  Chart taken from Foods that Heal by Dr. Bernard Jensen:  


Peak season for spinach is April and May but it is usually available fresh, as well as frozen, year round. Spinach, once picked, is very perishable, so look for crisp, fresh, flat or crinkled dark green leaves. Look for young leaves without long stems or seed stalks, and avoid wilted, yellowed, or decaying leaves. The farmer's market in Saskatoon has many vendors with wonderful fresh spinach in the spring, including organic.

When harvesting your own plants you may cut the whole plant, or just gather the outside leaves. I like to leave the main stalk until well after seeds emerge as through this process many smaller leaves are available.

Refrigerate fresh spinach as soon as possible, and leave washing until just prior to serving. If spinach is washed ahead of time, dry in a salad spinner to store, as water standing on the leaves will cause it to spoil more quickly. Fresh, unwashed spinach keeps well for 2 to 3 days.

Trim roots and tough stalks and rinse in a large sink of lukewarm water to remove sand. Clean sink, add fresh cold water and rinse again. If leaves are really crinkly, you may need to rinse each leaf individually. Continue with fresh water rinses until no sand remains. Drain well or spin to dry.

The best, simple way to cook spinach is to place leaves in a saucepan with only the water that is clinging to the leaves and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over moderate heat. Turn the lump of leaves once with a fork and remove from heat while still bright green. Serve as is with a dot of butter and sea salt or try a bit of lemon juice. I like to sprinkle a few hemp seeds on as well. If you find the cooked spinach tastes harsh from the oxalic acid content, using lemon juice helps, or cooking spinach with milk, eggs, or cheese works as well.

Extra spinach may be dried by steam blanching to wilt and then spreading with minimal overlay on trays and drying until crumbly. Freezing spinach is the best way to store bountiful harvests. Trim, blanch in boiling water until wilted (usually 1 to 2 minutes), chill in ice water, drain and freeze. Two to three pounds of fresh spinach equals 1 quart frozen and about 1 pound of fresh spinach equals two servings.


Favourite Spinach Salad

fresh spinach leaves
chopped green onions
soaked raw sunflower seeds

Dressing: olive oil mixed with a bit of tamari

Wilted Spinach Salad

Pour a hot dressing over fresh young spinach leaves in a bowl and serve.

Hot dressing

2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, minced
2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. dry mustard
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or try vinegar of your choice)
sea salt to taste

Saute onion in butter until soft and golden. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in the broth, vinegar, and mustard. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Pour over spinach and serve. Variation: marinate small cubes of firm tofu in tamari and then saute briefly. Toss in with spinach leaves before adding the dressing.

Baked Spinach Omelette*

Serves 4

3 pounds spinach, washed, drained, and coarsely shredded
3 tbsp. butter
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
dash tabasco
6 eggs
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
optional: mushroom or tomato sauce

Cook the spinach for 3 minutes in the water that clings to it. Drain the spinach and squeeze it dry in a strainer. Return the spinach to the saucepan. Add the butter. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the spinach is well coated with the butter. Remove from heat and season lightly with the salt (cheese will be salty), pepper, and tobasco. Beat together the eggs and parmesan cheese. Butter a fairly deep 8 inch baking dish or a deep 8 inch pie pan on all sides. Place it for a few moments over direct low heat to heat it up. Pour in half of the egg mixture. Cook like an omelette for 2 minutes or until set and golden. Remove from the heat. Spread the spinach evenly on top of the eggs. Top the spinach evenly with the remaining eggs. Bake in a preheated moderate oven (350º F) for about 15 minutes or until set and golden. Unfold on a plate and serve hot with sauce if desired, or with sliced tomatoes.

Kim's Spinach Triangles

3 packages frozen chopped spinach, 300 grams each
1-1/3 cups diced onion
2—3 cups sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
2 beaten eggs
1/2 lb. feta, crumbled (250 grams)
1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried dill
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1 package phyllo pastry (use whole wheat or spelt if possible)

Cook and drain chopped spinach and press out moisture. Saute onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper if using. Add eggs and cheese. Mix in crumbs. Add spinach and heat mixture through. Remove from heat. May place in fridge to use later in the day. Follow directions on phyllo package regarding thawing and using. Use 2 sheets at a time and brush melted butter on about 3 inches of each short edge of each sheet. With a sharp knife, score into 4 long strips. Place 1—2 tbsp. of filling on end of each strip and roll into triangles as shown on package. Bake at 425º F until lightly browned. Or freeze on wax paper in a single layer, place frozen triangles in a container and bake frozen at 350º F until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. – Contributed by Kim Cook

Wendy's Spinach Pie

2 -1/2 lbs. fresh or frozen spinach
1-1/2 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. dill
1 heaping tsp. paprika
2—3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
8 ounces Feta cheese (may use Vegan rella)
8 ounces warm milk (rice or soy are fine)
1 lb. phyllo pastry (use spelt or whole wheat and follow directions on package for thawing and using)
Olive oil

Prepare spinach. If using raw, chop into thin strips, sprinkle with salt and leave 1 hour. Squeeze out excess water. Saute onions in butter. Beat eggs and add onions, spices, garlic and cheese. Combine this with spinach. Add milk to mixture to make it creamy but not runny. May not need all of the milk. Brush 2 sheets phyllo with oil. Line 9 x 13 pan with 5 sheets (2 layers of phyllo each) so it overlaps up the sides of pan, one half in the pan and one half out so this overlay will make a cover as a topping. Oil each layer as you go. Pour in the spinach filling. Fold the double pastry sheets up over top to form a sandwich. Place 5 more sheets on the pan top, all oiled. Pour 2 tbsp. oil over top and brush. Sprinkle water on edges of pastry to prevent curling. Score the top. Allow pie to settle 1 hour before baking. Bake at 350º F for 35—40 minutes. Serve. Also good cold. — Contributed by Wendy Schindel

Cold Spinach and Yogurt**

Chop leftover cooked spinach and mix it with yogurt. Season with crushed garlic and pepper to taste. Serve as a cooling side dish with curries, chili beans, or other hot spicy dishes.

Spinach Souffle*

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 cup light cream or milk (try rice or soy)
freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 pound spinach, washed, cooked, and squeezed dry
4 eggs, separated

Heat the butter in a saucepan large enough to take all the ingredients except the eggs. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, and cook, stirring all the time, until thickened and smooth. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn heat to very low and stir in the cheese and the spinach. Cook until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and cool. Beat the egg yolks until thick and beat them into the spinach. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Carefully fold the egg whites into the spinach mixture. Turn into a buttered 1-1/2 to 2 quart baking dish. Bake in a preheated slow oven (325º F) for about 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Serve immediately.

* The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook by Nika Hazelton
**The Kitchen Gardener's Companion by Pat Katz

References: Foods that Heal by Bernard Jensen; Powerfoods by Stephanie Beling, M.D.; The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook by Nika Hazelton; and The Kitchen Gardener's Companion by Pat Katz.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking, and Healing, is available in health food stores or by calling (306) 244-8890.


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