Spinach is famously rich in iron, an essential mineral that plays a central role in the function of our red blood cells. Iron helps in the transportation of oxygen around our bodies, in energy production and DNA synthesis. If our iron stores are low, we can feel very tired and even dizzy, and our immunity will also be reduced. So if we want to avoid a summer sniffle and feel full of energy, then eating plenty of iron-rich spinach can help. But there are plenty of other benefits of spinach to enjoy too. It’s also a great source of potassium, magnesium and manganese as well as being rich in vitamin K (vital for good bone health), vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (essential for healthy skin and hair), and vitamin C, as well as being very low in calories.
Always wash your spinach leaves before you cook with them – the leaves seem to be a natural magnet for mud and grit. The easiest way is to fill a sink or bowl with ice-cold water and let the leaves soak for ten minutes before giving them good swish around underwater. Then lift the leaves from the bowl and tip the dirt away. For really grubby leaves, repeat this whole process in clean water. Cooking time should be kept to an absolute minimum – wilting a large pan of spinach should only take a minute or two at most, and no extra water needs to be added.
Natural partners for the strong mineral flavour of spinach are salty anchovies or bacon, or softer, creamier dairy products, avocados and eggs. Citrus fruits also work well – try a delicious blood orange, feta cheese and spinach salad for a summer taste sensation – and a squeeze of lemon juice on cooked spinach not only brings it alive, but can actually help reduce the ‘furry-teeth’ effect that some object to.