The recalls of a few years ago may have put off cooking spinach for your kids. You may not even be sure now if spinach was the source of the contamination or if it turned out to be tomatoes. In addition, you may not remember whether it was E. coli or salmonella when it came down to it. All you might remember was that scientists couldn’t quite figure out what was causing it and that just when things seemed to be coming to an end there was another outbreak. So better to be safe than sorry, you may have given up on spinach.
In case you have forgotten in the meantime, spinach is just a great vegetable for anyone, but especially for kids. It has a good amount of iron content—as you probably think Popeye told you. (As it turns out, actually, Popeye never actually claimed he takes spinach for the iron content. In fact, a researcher recently showed that the creator of the cartoon actually chooses spinach because of the Vitamin A content, which is indeed high in spinach.) Spinach, however also has a long list of positives beyond those you have learned about through cartoons.
Spinach, like most greens, is very high in antioxidants, which research has shown to improve health generally and help to prevent cancer. It is packed with vitamins, including A, two kinds of B, C, and K. Furthermore, it has several other minerals like zinc and niacin.
Although spinach is indeed high in iron content, it is similarly full of calcium and zinc. This makes it sound like it would be great for bone strength and muscle development, but unfortunately, these three together tend to block your body system from metabolizing them fully.
Is it safe now?
There were indeed two recalls of spinach, one in 2006 (involving E. coli), and one in 2007 (involving Salmonella poisoning). These contaminations resulted in three deaths and several cases of sickness. Although it received considerably less press than the original outbreak, the FDA did finally trace the outbreak back to a specific farm and discovered that the E. coli outbreak resulted from pig feces mixing with waters used for irrigation. The Salmonella contamination made the press but the vast majority of the spinach never reached consumers. The effect on sales of Popeye’s favorite vegetable was worse than anything Brutus could ever have done. Up until 2006, spinach had been steadily on the increase, but sales are yet to recover.
Spinach is safe now. Even if there were to be another outbreak of E. coli or salmonella, cooking spinach purifies it, and since this is the method we recommend when preparing it for your children, you should not worry.
How to Prepare Spinach
The best kind of spinach to get for your kids is the fresh kind. It may be tempting to get baby spinach in a plastic bag, but much of the flavor and quality can be lost for spinach stored this way. The best cooking spinach comes from farmer’s markets. These also tend to be the healthiest and safest types of spinach since organic farmers do not treat it with harsh, cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, the industrialized agricultural methods that caused the E. coli outbreak of 2006 is much less likely to occur on an organic farm.
The easiest way of cooking spinach is just to put it in a clear plastic Ziploc and zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. However, if you really want to preserve the taste and the full nutritional value of your spinach, the best way to cook spinach is in frying pan. Just throw it in for a couple of minutes using the water left over from when you cleaned it as a source of moisture. Add your favorite spices to it, like garlic or just a touch of salt, and cook it for a couple of minutes. It’s as easy as that.