Spinach
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Source: www.plants.usda.gov


Plant Description:

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.), a flowering plant, is from the genus Spinacia L. and the Chenopadiaceae family. The Chenopadiaceae family is more commonly known as the Goosefoot family. There are 34 different genera in the Goosefoot family, one of the more well-known is the Beet (beta L).[1] This edible vegetable is an annual plant that requires high levels of lime in the soil, as well as cool temperatures.[2] It is because of this that spinach is best produced in the spring and fall seasons.[3] Spinach is said to have originated from Persia (now modern-day Iran) and eventually made its way to China. Over time, the vegetable made its way to Spain, Italy, and eventually to the rest of the world.[4] There are three different types of spinach: Savoy, Semi-Savoy, and Flat-leafed.[3]

Plant Classification:

Spinacia Oleracea L. - Spinach
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Kingdom= Plantae - plants
Subkingdom= Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision= Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division= Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class= Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Subclass= Caryophylllidae
Order= Caryophyllales
Family= Chenopodiaceae - Goosefoot family
Genus= Spinacia L. - Spinach
Species= Spinacia oleracea L. - spinach [1]

Types of Spinach:
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Savoy Spinach Plant

Savoy Spinach:

This type of Spinach is more commonly known as the curly-leaf spinach. It is the most productive of the varieties of the Spinach plant, this is because it is more capable of growing in colder climates than other types of Spinach. Savoy Spinach growscloser to the ground than the other varieties, and as a result, the plant needs to constantly be cleaned of soil during growth to ensure proper health.[3] The plant is known to have a dark-green color and each leaf is between five and six inches long. Due to its resistance of boiling, the cool-weather vegetable is commonly used for sautéing and wilting. [5] Two of the most common types of Savoy Spinach are Regiment and Bloomsdale. Regiment Savoy Spinach is known to produce large amounts of ripe, green leaves that stay fresh for longer periods of time. Bloomsdale Savoy Spinach is known for its large, dark green leaves, as well as the plant's adaptability to cold temperatures. [3]


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Semi-Savoy Spinach

Semi-Savoy Spinach:

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Bolting Spinach

This type of Spinach has less curly leaves than the Savoy Spinach discussed above. Semi-Savoy Spinach is a mix between Savoy and Flat Leafed Spinach. Unlike the Savoy Spinach, Semi-Savoy's leaves grow more upright, a condition which makes it harder for mud and soil to cling to the leaves. Semi-Savoy Spinach also has a reputation for a good resistance of disease and bolting.[3] Bolting is a term used by gardeners to describe a tendency of a plant to go to seed early. This is usually caused by a spike in warm weather and as a result, the plant's flavor is diminished.
Spinach and Lettuce are the two best known plants notorious for bolting.[6] The three most well-known semi-savoy spinach types are Tyee, Catalina, and Teton. All three of these types are known for their bolt-resistance and ability to grow year round. Semi-Savoy Spinach is recommended for anyone who wants to grow spinach at home because of how versatile the plant is. [3]

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Flat-Leaf Spinach

Flat-Leaf Spinach:

This type of Spinach, like the name describes, has flat leaves that typically grow upright, this makes it easier to keep clean. The flat smooth leaves make also make it easy to clean the plant. The flat-leaf spinach is typically used for processed foods, canned foods, salads, etc. [3]. Two common flat-leafed spinach varieties are Space and Red Cardinal. Space Spinach grows upright, making it easy to clean. Space is usually used for salads and is slower to bolt than other similar varieties. Red Cardinal got its name because of its red veins and stem, much like a beet leaf. Red Cardinal Spinach bolts the fastest of all of the flat-leafs. It is because of this that Red Cardinal has to be harvested early. These young greens are nicknamed 'baby spinach' and are great additions to salads. [3]

Spinach Distribution:

Spinach, while originating from modern-day Iran, is mostly cultivated in the United States and the Netherlands.[4] In the United States, California and Arizona are the two largest markets of spinach, followed by Texas and New Jersey. California, being the largest Spinach grower in the U.S., accounted for 71 percent of of U.S.-grown spinach in 2010. Combined with Arizona, the two states took up 90 percent of U.S. spinach. While the U.S. is a major contributor to the world's fresh spinach market, it is second to China. [12] See below for a map of where spinach grows in the wild in the United States of America. While most of the spinach is grown in California, Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey, you can see that spinach even grows in the Providence county of Rhode Island.
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Distribution of Spinach
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Rhode Island Spinach


Spinach Nutrition:

Spinach has always been known as one of the healthiest foods for anyone's diet. The plant contains a good source of "phytonutrients", which have been found be effective in fighting various cancers. Researchers have found in specific cases that phytonutrients in spinach have reduced the occurrence of skin cancer as well as slowed down the division of stomach cancer cells. The plant Spinach has also been found to help women combat breast cancer and men combat prostate cancer. This can be attributed to a specific nutrient in the plant called neoxanthin.[7]

Spinach has also been found to help fight cardiovascular disease. Over the past few years it has been found that a substance called hemocysteine is a major factor in the development of heart disease. The plant contains a nutrient called folate, that has been found to help fight hemocysteine. The plant also contains a nutrient called lutein which has been proven to help fight cataracts and other degenerative eye diseases.[7] The nutrients potassium and folate have also been found to help reduce the risk and effects of alzheimer's disease. [8]
Spinach is also a good source in Iron, Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and Calcium.
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Spinach, because of its healthy characteristics, has been advertised as one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Popeye, a cartoon character, promoted the consumption of canned spinach. In his
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Popeye
cartoons whenever he consumed the canned vegetable he would gain super strength. This was because people wanted to influence kids to eat the high-protein food. It has been shown that Spinach is good to have as a part of an infant's diet because of the high levels of protein and other nutrients that help the child to grow big and strong. [9]






Spinach, the "Healthy" food:

Cryptosporidium parvum

While Spinach contains all of these healthy nutrients, consuming the plant still poses some risks to your health. A few years ago, the American Society for Microbiology made a surprising discovery relating to spinach. Cryptosporidium parvum, a common parasite that can be found in untreated water, has been known to cause a disease called cryptosporidiosis. This disease causes severe diarrhea for mammals and poses a risk to humans. Scientists have found that this parasite forms a strong bond with the spinach leaves if the plant comes into contact with contaminated water. [10] Since Spinach is considered one of the twelve foods most contaminated with pesticides, it is recommended that one avoid spinach unless it is certified organic. [4]
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Cryptosporidium Parvum

E. Coli

Spinach was also in the news a few years back because of an E. Coli outbreak. In September of 2006, all United States grown bagged baby spinach was recalled. This was because e coli was found in a few of the containers. This produced fear in many consumers, and it wasn't helped when there were 104 hospitalizations and four deaths, this all due to the outbreak. The outbreak was found to have originated in four spinach fields owned by the company Dole. The outbreak was so widespread that it reached 26 states, the hardest hit being Wisconsin with 49 different cases of E. Coli. [11]
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Spinach Infected with E. Coli

Purines

Spinach contains high levels of purines, a naturally occurring substance found in animals, plants, and humans. While it is normal to have specific levels of purines in your diet, it takes Uric Acid to break down these purines. It works like a mirror effect, the more purines you consume, the more uric acid it takes to break them down. Excess amounts of uric acid can be bad for your health in two ways. The first is that the high levels can cause painful kidney stones. The second, and more permanent is the development of a disease called gout.[4] Gout occurs when the high levels of Uric Acid crystalize and bundle up in joints like the toes, fingers, elbows, or knees. This can be extremely painful when a gout attack flares up and causes paralyzing pain.The only way to treat this disease is to maintain a balanced diet while taking specific medicine. The two most well known pharmaceutical drugs are Allopurinol and Uloric, and both are consumed orally in the form of a pill to combat the disease.


Oxalates

Much like the purines, oxalates are naturally occurring substances that can become harmful once they become too concentrated. If there are too many oxalates in a person's body they begin to crystalize and bundle together. This can be extremely dangerous for anyone who has a history or is currently diagnosed with kidney or gallbladder problems. Oxalates have also been found to block the intake of calcium, an essential part of a healthy diet. [4]

Sources:

1. Spinacia Oleracea L. Plants Profile. USDA National Conservation Resources.http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SPOL. July 22, 2011
2. “Spinach.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. <**http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/560029/spinach**>. July 22, 2011
3. Types of Spinach and Spinach Varieties. Grow it Organically. http://www.grow-it-organically.com/spinach-varieties.html. July 22, 2011
4. "Spinach." The World's Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation. Web. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice>. July 22, 2011
5. "Savoy Spinach Information". Specialty Produce. http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Savoy_Spinach_1539.php . July 22, 2011
6. Vanderlinden, Colleen. "Bolt - What Happens When a Plant Bolts." About.com. Web. http://organicgardening.about.com/od/organicgardeningglossary/g/bolt.htm. 23 July 2011.
7. "Spinach Nutrition - The Things You Never Knew." Whole Food Supplements. Web. <http://www.whole-food-supplements-guide.com/spinach-nutrition.html>. 23 July 2011.
8. "Health Benefits of Spinach." Facts on Food, Nutrition and Home Remedies. Web. <http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-spinach.html>. 23 July 2011.
9. "Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Spinach, Raw." Nutrition Facts, Calories in Food, Labels, Nutritional Information and Analysis – NutritionData.com. Web. <http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2>. 23 July 2011.
10. Macarisin, Dumitru, Gary Bauchan, and Ronald Fayer. "Spinacia Oleracea L. Leaf Stomata Harboring Cryptosporidium Parvum Oocysts: A Potential Threat for Food Safety -- Macarisin Et Al., 1128/AEM.02118-09." Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 20 Nov. 2009. Web. <http://aem.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/AEM.02118-09v1>. 23 July 2011.
11. Flynn, Dan. "Dole Spinach E. Coli Outbreak." Food Safety News - Global Food Safety News & Information : Presented By Marler Clark LLP, PS - Home. 20 Sept. 2009. Web.<http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2009/09/meaningful-outbreak-7-dole-spinach-e-coli-outbreak/>. 23 July 2011.
12. Boriss, Hayley, and Marcia Kreith. "Spinach Profile." Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. June 2011. Web.<http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/vegetables/spinach_profile.cfm>. 31 July 2011.