Thought to originate in South-East Asia or the Eastern Himalayas, spinach was first cultivated by the Persians. Knowledge of the plant, and seeds, spread along the trade routes reaching to China in the seventh century and Spain in the eleventh century. The first written record in England was in a Turner’s Herball of 1551, describing an herbe lately found and not long in use.
Popeye may well have downed canned spinach but we can promise you that the fresh stuff from the garden is far far better. Spinach is the perfect food for anyone in a hurry – at its most simple all you need to do to cook spinach is to cut and wash the leaves, pop them into a saucepan (without any extra water) cover and cook on a medium heat (so not to scorch the leaves) for 5 minutes, stir and cook on high for just 1 minute, drain, cut and serve. It is so quick you now have time to get creative to bring out still more of the lovely flavour.
Create stunning dishes by sprinkling with nutmeg, pepper or even sugar for a taste explosion. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the pan before you start cooking for a subtle touch. Retain the juice from cooking and reduce with a touch of butter for a simple pour over sauce.
You can also cook spinach with cheese, yoghurt, cream, ham, bacon or fish. Don’t forget that the young leaves can simply be added to salads.
With all these ideas to try out you will be happy to know that August is the perfect time to start sowing for a crop to enjoy through the winter months ahead.