Anyone who has ever met with spinach know they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and good flavor! It is the favorite garden vegetable of all health food aficionados which grows quickly and easily in cool weather.
Spinach originally came from Persia (now Iran) where it was known as aspanakh. The green, leafy vegetable made its way to China in the 7th century, when story has it that the king of Nepal sent it as a gift. The Chinese called it the ‘Herb of Persia’. Spinach was eventually brought to Europe in the 11th century, when it was introduced to Spain by the Moors. In fact, spinach was known as ‘the Spanish vegetable’ in England.
In the 16th century, spinach became the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici of the famous Medici family of the Italian Renaissance. When she left her home in Florence, Italy, to marry King Henry II of France, she brought along her own cooks who could prepare spinach in the many different ways that she liked. Since this time, dishes prepared on a bed of spinach are referred to as à la Florentine.
Spinach is a hardy annual related to beets and Swiss chard that has been used by humans for a long time.
There are two basic types of spinach with either smooth leaves or crinkly (savoy) leaves. The smooth types are normally grown for freezing and canning because they grow faster, yield more and are easier to clean.
Leaves of spinach may be flat or curly, depending on the variety. The leaves can be eaten either fresh or cooked.
Spinach was the first frozen vegetable to be sold for commercial use. Spinach seeds are so tiny there are 40,000 seeds in one pound. It takes about 600,000 seeds to grow one acre of spinach plants.
Spinach began being cultivated in North America by the early 19th century. Most of us associate spinach with Popeye, who attributes his amazing strength to a daily diet spinach. In fact, when Popeye made his debut on January 17, 1929, spinach became the third most popular vegetable in the country.
Grown and enjoyed in many parts of the world, fresh spinach is available all year. Major supplies come from Texas and California where it grows as a cool winter crop.
Spinach is high in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and a good source of vitamin C, and riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Today we are making a very simple spinach and blue cheese soup. If you are not really fond of blue cheese, any other melty cheese can be used as well.
Spinach and Blue Cheese Soup
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 tablespoons cornmeal (or flour)
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ pound blue cheese, crumbled
- ½ pound fresh spinach
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the butter in a largish pot. When hot, add the onions. Cook, stirring, till the onion is wilted and the edges start to brown.
- Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal and stir well to combine. Cook for a minute without the cornmeal getting browned.
- Add the chicken broth and bring to the boil.
- Add the milk and cook for about five minutes.
- Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until melted.
- Coarsely chop the spinach and add it to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, about five minutes.
- Add the cream, and heat without allowing it to boil.
- Adjust seasoning and ladle into bowls to serve, with more cream, if desired.