It March 26th, and each year, National Spinach Day reminds Americans of the health benefits packed of the leafy green vegetable.
Here are some points people should know:
- An annual plant, spinach grows natively in central and southwestern Asia. Thought to have originated in ancient Persia, Arab traders carried spinach into India and then later introduced into ancient China. There it was known as “Persian vegetable.”
- The earliest available record of the spinach plant was found in Chinese, saying that the spinach plant was introduced into China via Nepal.
- Spinach is a native plant of Persia (modern day Iran). It was introduced to China in the 7th century. It was most probably brought to Europe in about the 12th century and to the US in 1806.
- Reflecting its origin, spinach is still widely known in China as “the Persian Green”.
- During her reign as queen of France, Catherine de Medici enjoyed spinach so much, it was served at every meal. To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as “Florentine” reflecting Catherine’s birth in Florence.
- Spinach is eaten raw or cooked and is available fresh, frozen or canned.
- Spinach is one of the best sources of iron. And an excellent source of calcium, folic acid, fiber, protein, calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Spinach is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, believed to help improve cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.
- Following China, the United States produces the world’s second-largest crop of spinach.
- California, Arizona, and New Jersey are the top spinach producing states in the United States.
- In the 1930’s U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption – a welcome boost to an industry during the depression era.
- The spinach growing town of Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue of Popeye in 1937.
The creator of the comic strip character, Popeye, E.C. Segar was a vegetarian and as a way of promoting the benefits of vegetables, he boosted his character’s strength with a known iron-rich food. Popeye has been portrayed since 1931.
- ‘Birds Eye’ was the first company to advertise frozen spinach. It did so in “Life” magazine in 1949.
- Alma, Arkansas (population approx. 4,700), holds an annual spinach festival each April, organized by the Alma Chamber of Commerce. Alma proclaims itself to be the “spinach capital of the world”, a title also claimed by Crystal City, Texas. Alma is the home of “Allen Canning Company” which cans and ships spinach.
- Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint
- Name “Spinach” is derived from the word ispanai meaning green hand. In Latin it became spanachia which eventually evolved into the present word.
- It can make workouts easier. Preliminary research published in Cell Press found spinach might make your muscles more efficient during a workout.
- On average, each American eats 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) of spinach a year.
Americans eat an average of 3 lbs a year