Spinach can have either flat or slightly crinkled leaves. It is often available as baby spinach, which is especially useful for salads. Spinach can be purchased fresh, frozen, or canned. Fresh spinach is sold in bunches or already washed and sealed in plastic bags. Spinach is usually very sandy and needs thorough washing. Trim the roots and then swish the leaves in a large bowl of water. A number of other greens that are similar to spinach are often sold in specialty stores. These include New Zealand spinach, which comes from a different plant family. Spinach can be consumed cooked or raw. Baby spinach leaves are especially good in salads with bleu cheese, walnuts, red onions, and a vinaigrette dressing.
Spinach cooks very quickly, and doesn’t need added water. Just place it in a pan, cover, and simmer for two to four minutes. Spinach is a good addition to stews and to soups that contain beans, pasta, or potatoes, or to any kind of curry dish. Spinach can also be creamed. Cook the spinach, then purée in a food processor, adding your choice of ricotta cheese, cream sauce, or soft tofu. Add herbs, salt, and pepper, and use as a stuffing for lasagna or pasta shells, or toss with pasta or rice. Creamed spinach can also be thinned with broth or milk to make soup. Good seasonings for spinach include fresh lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, dill, parsley, basil, nutmeg, and mushrooms.
Cooked spinach is an excellent source of iron. It's more important for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency. And, for pregnant or lactating women, the needs for iron increase. Spinach can also help prevent colon cancer. In addition, spinach is a very good source of magnesium, a mineral that can help to lower high blood pressure and protect against heart disease as well.