It’s not just Popeye who will be strong to the finish on National Spinach Day. In fact, anyone who chooses to celebrate the day by consuming some of this leafy green plant will get to join in on the health benefits as well!
Packed with nutrients such as Iron, Vitamin A and Calcium, spinach is known for being a healthy part of a balanced diet – but do we eat enough of it?
Well, that’s what National Spinach Day is all about!
History of National Spinach Day
Originally from Persia (the area that is now Iran), spinach made its way to China in the 7th century, where the people referred to it as the “Herb of Persia” or the “Persian Green”. The vegetable eventually ended up in Europe a few hundred years later, when it landed in Spain. In fact, for some time the English referred to spinach as “The Spanish Vegetable”. It didn’t make its way to being cultivated in North American until sometime in the early 1800s.
Possibly the most famous person in history to be associated with spinach is 16th-century noblewoman, Catherine de’ Medici, who ruled France from behind her three sons for many years. Originally from Florence, Italy, she moved to France when she married King Henry II. It is said that Catherine loved spinach and made sure her cooks served it at every meal. Because of this, even today, meals that are made with spinach are often known as “Florentine” in honor of the birthplace of Catherine de’ Medici.
This dark, leafy green vegetable that grows in groups that form a rosette-type shape is part of the “goosefoot” family, with its close relatives being Swiss chard and quinoa, as well as beets. Spinach has a few different varieties that offer different shapes and sizes of leaves.
Taking some time to celebrate National Spinach Day acts as a little nod to this tasty, healthy vegetable.
How to Celebrate National Spinach Day
While it might seem a little far-fetched to spend the day celebrating the wonders of spinach, it’s possible–and can even be a load of fun! People who want to celebrate National Spinach Day can employ a variety of ideas for ways to the day, it just takes a bit of creativity.
Consider giving these ideas a try or come up with other ideas of your own:
Try Creative Ways to Serve Spinach
Why not try a new recipe on National Spinach Day? Sauté it in olive oil and a little bit of garlic – or what about a baby spinach salad with mozzarella cheese, avocado slices, and crispy bacon crumbled on top? Delicious!
Other tasty ideas for meals that include spinach are:
- Bacon, spinach, and gorgonzola pasta
- Spinach, artichoke, zucchini dip (with pita bread or baguette)
- Spinach spanakopita (a traditional Greek pastry dish)
- Creamy spinach soup
- Spinach lasagna (a vegetarian take on the traditional Italian dish)
- Spinach pesto on flatbread pizza
- Spinach quiche (also called Quiche Florentine)
- Mushroom and spinach risotto
Some people like to purée spinach up and hide it in soups and pizza sauces for the finicky eaters in the family who may not prefer to eat it straight up.
So, no excuses – get your leafy greens down on National Spinach Day!
Learn About the Health Benefits of Spinach
Just like many vegetables, the healthiest way to serve and eat spinach is fresh and raw. However, even when it is cooked, it still remains one of the healthier vegetables. These are just some of the many nutritional benefits:
- Fiber aids the digestive system
- Vitamin A (carotene), for healthy organs and eyes
- Iron helps with red blood cells and tissue health
- Vitamin C, antioxidants, and a booster for the immune system
- Folic Acid, useful in cell function and tissue growth
- Calcium, essential for bone health
- Antioxidants, help remove free radicals that cause oxidative damage
While spinach also has a small amount of natural sugars and carbohydrates, these are small in comparison to the myriad of other health benefits provided by this tasty veggie.
Try Growing Spinach in the Garden
Getting enough leafy greens in the diet is much easier for people who can grow their own! And, actually, spinach is not a particularly difficult one to grow. It’s an annual plant, meaning that it needs to be re-planted from seed each year, but it’s hardy and enjoys weather that is somewhat cool (but not cold).
National Spinach Day might be a bit too soon in the year to start a garden outdoors in many parts of the world. If this is the case, it’s simple to begin an indoor planting of spinach from seed and then move it outside when the weather permits. Spinach likes cool weather. So, as long as there is no risk of frost, the spinach plants should do fine outside in the spring.
As soon as the leaves are large enough to eat, the spinach is ready for harvest. It is healthiest when eaten as quickly as possible after harvesting. However, it can be stored, loosely packed, in a sealed plastic bag for several days. Don’t wash it ahead of time as it could get mushy. Simply wash it just prior to eating or cooking with it. It can also be frozen while it is still fresh.
Since it only takes about 6 weeks from the sowing of seeds to harvest time, it has a quick turnaround time. This means that it’s a great vegetable to grow in the spring as well as in the cooler autumn months so that there’s enough for the family to eat all throughout the growing season.
Take in Some ‘Popeye, the Sailor Man’
Some younger folks might not be familiar with the connection between Popeye and spinach. But those of a certain generation will possibly remember not only the Saturday morning cartoon but also the little jingle song that went along with it!
Going further back, even before it was an animated cartoon, more mature folks might remember that Popeye started out as a comic strip in the newspapers in the late 1920s. Eventually, decades later, a live-action film tribute was created in 1980, starring Robin Williams.
The theme of the character, Popeye, was that he was a rather average little sailor guy, with eerily large, tattooed forearms who smoked a pipe. And when he ate his spinach? Well, he would immediately gain superhuman strength and be able to punch the lights out of his arch-nemesis, Bluto, in order to help one of his friends who were in need. (Popeye and Bluto were constantly fighting over the affections of the tall, extremely skinny Olive Oyl.)
As it turns out, pop culture actually can have a positive influence on the world, proven by Popeye. After the character started eating spinach, children began asking for it and sales in the United States skyrocketed by one-third. That was quite a boost for the spinach industry–and the health of those children!