Seasonal Super Foods!

Spinacia oleracea

Spinach is hands-down my favorite vegetable. I love using spinach in everything from soups to salads, sandwiches and stir fries.  Spinach is a staple vegetable in my kitchen and I figured it’s time that take a closer look at where it comes from.  It turns out that about 90% of U.S. spinach is grown in Arizona and California.

Being a Sustainability Studies minor I try to incorporate as many sustainable practices into my life as I can, so naturally, I want to learn how to use spinach in a sustainable manner.  One component regarding sustainable food is getting food from your local foodshed.  Albuquerque’s foodshed is defined as food that comes from within a 300-mile radius.  A community that supports their local foodshed benefits from fresher produce, knowing where their food comes from, and investing in their local economy.

Eat Local
We can support Albuquerque’s local foodshed by using our dollars as our vote.  Every dollar that we spend is our vote on where we want food to come from.  I support the local growers’ markets here in Albuquerque and Santa Fe as well as La Montanita Coop. I try to incorporate as many local foods in my diet as possible, but I feel like I can do more.

Eating seasonally is my next big challenge.  With today’s technology people can grow pretty much anything anytime of year and ship it anywhere in the world.  This is convenient and has allowed us to enjoy any food any time we want regardless of the season, however, the resources that go into this process are far from sustainable. Eating produce within our foodshed that is in season reduces the stress on resources used to grow foods that are not in season.  This is an overall more holistic and sustainable way to support our foodshed and the health of the environment.

Image credit: Dreaming New Mexico

Image credit: Dreaming New Mexico

The History of Spinach 
Spinach originated in the Middle Eastern region of AnatoliaThe green made its way through Nepal, China and into the Mediterranean. Spinach was first introduced to Europe in the 15th century and was grown in the United States before the 19th century.  The Latin name, Spinacia oleracea means prickly seed (spinacia) and edible plant (oleracea).

Why Is Spinach so Awesome?
Spinach is packed with nutrients.  Spinach is high in vitamins A, C, thiamin, folic acid, potassium, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenoids, and glycoclycerolipids. Spinach has been found to help fight cancers, inflammation and is rich in antioxidants.

The following is a list some of the nutritional benefits found in spinach:

Image credit: World's Healthiest Foods

Image credit: World’s Healthiest Foods

  • Vitamins A and C
    -Cardiovascular health
  • Thiamin
    -Nervous system health
  • Folic Acid
    -DNA synthesis, cellular reproduction, fights depression
  • Potassium
    -Bone health, heart health
  • Lutein
    -Good for your eyes
  • Zeaxanthin
    -Good for your eyes
  • Carotenoids
    -Immune system health
  • Gycoclycerolipids
    -Decreases inflammation

Growing Spinach
Spinach is a cool weather crop, making it a perfect late winter/early spring or summer/early fall crop. Spinach has a potential growing season from February through November.

Please check out The National Garden Bureau for a more in-depth guide on how to grow and harvest spinach.

Where to Buy Local Spinach
If you do not have a garden or space to grow greens, you can support our local economy and foodshed by shopping from local distributers and retailers.  Local spinach can be found at the La Montanita Coop or many of New Mexico’s local growers’ markets.

Spinach Recipe
Here is one of my favorite soups that has spinach as one of the main ingredients.

Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons oil or ghee
1 small yellow onion
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 pound baby spinach
14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Cooking instructions:

  1. Heat oil/ghee in large pot, add onion and cook until brown. Add sun dried tomatoes, fresh ginger, lemon zest, red pepper and garlic. Cook for 3 more minutes.
  2. Add chickpeas and cook until brown.
  3. Stir in spinach a little bit at a time.
  4. Add coconut milk, salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice.
  5. Bring to a simmer then turn down heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Season to taste and enjoy!
Image credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

Image credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

Here is a link to 30 more awesome spinach recipes. Happy Eating!

-Posted by Taylor

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