It’s not surprising that spinach was the secret of Popeye’s strength as spinach is one of those superfoods which have that extra helping of the essential vitamins A, C, E, and K. Keeping your spinach fresh is a prerequisite to preserving these life enhancing vitamins. Spinach goes bad quicker than most vegetables. If improperly stored, spinach can become slimy, dark spotted, and discolored. What must be absolutely avoided while storing spinach is moisture since water can make spinach go bad in a very short time. Spinach can be stored in many ways depending on how long you may want to store spinach. Shorter-term storage of spinach includes refrigeration under specific temperatures, whereas longer term storage will need the making of a spinach puree and then deep freezing the pureed spinach.
How to Buy the Best Spinach
Storing spinach and keeping it fresh is the second step. The first step in this process is to find the best spinach that you can buy. You can never buy too much spinach, but you will have a hard time keeping it fresh even with proper storage methods if the spinach you’ve bought isn’t the freshest or the best that you could have.
The best spinaches have a fresh aroma and dark-green leaves that are firm to the touch and not at all wilted. Particularly look for any signs of rot, or discoloration such as yellow or brown leaves; these are spinach that shouldn’t be bought. A must for supermarket or farmer’s market purchasing of spinach is to look at the packaging and to buy only those spinach that were produced organically. Non-organic spinach will have high levels of pesticide, which is in itself very detrimental to health. Always remember to buy spinach in bulk since a pound of spinach will be reduced to about a cup of spinach after being cooked.
How the cooked spinach will taste depends entirely upon the stem of the spinach leaves. A supple, thin, and bendable stem means that the leaves came from a younger spinach plant. These will be best used in salads and in cooking for people who have sensitive teeth or are older and need their spinach to be soft and easy to chew. Whereas, a thick stem indicates that the spinach plant is more mature and tough. Its leaves will be thicker and harder to chew once cooked. Generally, these spinaches make for unappealing dishes and should be avoided.
Moisture causes spinach to rot. So, when buying spinach, it’s absolutely essential to avoid any packaging where you can see that the spinach has been stored with too much moisture. Similarly, any spinach in plastic bags or containers having too much moisture should be avoided as well. Finally, unless you are going to cook your spinach immediately, refrain from washing it.
Another thing to note is that fresh spinach may not always be the best thing since spinach starts to lose its nutrients within days after being harvested. On the other hand, canned or frozen spinach are processed immediately after their harvest so they may retain more of their nutritional value better than fresh spinach that have travelled a long way from the farms to your nearest store.
How to Store Fresh Spinach
Now that you’ve bought the best spinach you can buy, it’s time to store it so that it stays fresh until you consume it.
As stated above, moisture kills spinach. Even fresh store-bought spinach can become slimy, wilted, and unappetizing if stored in a moisture-heavy environment. Thankfully, there are ways in which spinach can be stored without having to worry about excess moisture. Always use freshly cleaned plastic or Tupperware containers to store fresh spinach. These containers will protect these leafy greens from being moved around or accidentally being crushed as they would if bags would have been used. The containers should be lined with paper towels which will absorb moisture and allow the spinach to stay crisp and fresh up to ten days in the refrigerator. Nevertheless, take care not to put the spinach near any ethylene producing over-ripened fruits such as apples or bananas because ethylene causes the spinach to decay and rot even faster than moisture.
Refrigerate the spinach packed in Tupperware containers lined with paper towels. This way the spinach can be stored and consumed anytime within a seven-day period. The refrigerator’s temperature should not go below 35 degrees Fahrenheit since spinach stored at temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit will freeze and severe loss of nutrients will occur; not to mention the loss of folate and carotenoid content. Refrigeration helps to slow down the natural decay of the spinach so that it can be consumed later in all its freshness and nutritional values. The method for freezing fresh spinach without this extreme loss of its nutritional values is given as follows.
How to Freeze Fresh Spinach
Remember the adage “Something is better than nothing?” Although, freezing spinach causes it to lose some of its nutritional values, having it is still better than going without a superfood like spinach in those harsh winter months when spinach cannot be grown fresh. Fresh spinach can be frozen and stored for up to six months. Read on to discover how to store spinach by freezing them.
The first step is to make sure the spinach that’s about to be frozen is free from all dirt, insects, and bacteria. Never forget to wash raw spinach. Discard brown or yellowed, damaged or mushy leaves if there are any. Finally, rinse out the spinach.
Lightly squeeze the spinach leaves and then dry them with paper towels. This will make sure that the spinach does not have any watery residue. Shake the spinach leaves to remove any lingering water droplets. The next step is to sort the spinach into smaller sizes, which will make it easier for freezing and thawing when you are ready to consume. This is done because large spinach leaves are tougher to eat than smaller bite-sized pieces. If your spinach has tough stems or ribs then you would want to remove them. But if you are freezing baby spinach then it’s not a problem to leave the stems alone.
After you have prepared the spinach for freezing, it’s time to put them into special bags designed for freezing, although Tupperware is still a viable option. Take care not to tightly pack your spinach as frozen items always expand. Tightly packed spinach will cause it to be crushed under the expanding force and your spinach will be spoilt once you thaw them out. Properly packed and frozen spinach can be stored for up to six months.
Before freezing the spinach, it’s always a good idea to label the container or bags with the time and date of the day when you are putting the spinach into frozen storage so that you don’t accidentally forget that you have some fresh spinach stored in your freezer. Thawing out the frozen spinach is very easy. Just leave it in your refrigerator overnight or a couple of days and voila, you will get to enjoy some fresh spinach, ready to eat or cook.
How to Freeze Spinach by Blanching
Another way to freeze fresh spinach is to cook it first by blanching. In this way, the aroma and nutrients of the spinach can be better preserved than freezing raw spinach. Although, the cooking and consumption possibilities of spinach stored frozen this way are much more limited than storing raw spinach.
The process of blanching spinach starts with soaking the raw cleaned spinach in boiling water over a stove for two to three minutes or by boiling the raw spinach in a microwave safe bowl inside a microwave oven for the same period. Next, the spinach should be immediately transferred using a slotted spatula into ice cold water and soaked for a while. Afterwards, meticulously dry out the blanched spinach and they are ready for freezing. Put the blanched spinach in Tupperware or plastic resealable bags lined with moisture absorbing paper towels. Then place the boxed or bagged blanched spinach in the refrigerator. Blanched refrigerated spinach can be consumed anytime. You can eat it in its blanched form, or use it in other recipes or even cook it further as a curry. By blanching the spinach before freezing, its nutritional value is better preserved than refrigerating it raw. Also, the smells and aroma of the spinach is better maintained if the raw spinach is blanched before refrigeration.
Long Term Storage of Spinach
If you need to store your fresh spinach for periods longer than six months, then the only way to preserve the nutritional values of the spinach as well as making sure that the spinach doesn’t rot is to puree the spinach then store it in the freezer. This method does not require the spinach to be blanched. Read on to discover how to freeze your fresh spinach puree.
As stated before, the first step is to thoroughly wash the spinach leaves so that no dirt, insects, or bacteria that is visible to your naked eye remains. Clean the spinach under cool running tap water or leave the spinach submerged in cool and clean water. Rinse and repeat at least three times to ensure that your spinach is completely clean.
Next, put the cleaned spinach into a food processor or a blender with around three or five tablespoons of water and blend the contents into an evenly smooth puree. Blend for as long as it needs to get the liquid consistency or as smooth as you want it.
Now it’s time to portion out your spinach puree. You can pour it into resealable plastic bags, Tupperware containers, jars, or even ice cube trays. If you have frozen your pureed spinach in ice cube trays, then just pop out the cubed pureed spinach and put them into freezer safe bags or jars and you can use your ice cube trays for other things.
The final step in the process of keeping spinach frozen as a puree is to place the spinach puree into the freezer where it will stay frozen and ready to be consumed for about twelve months. If the freezer can maintain a steady constant temperature of about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, then the pureed spinach will be ready for consumption. As stated above, the process of thawing is just to put the frozen spinach puree into your refrigerator for as long as necessary (usually overnight). This thawing is unnecessary, however, if you are cooking a hot stew or soup then just toss in the frozen pureed spinach and the simmering cooking heat will melt the frozen spinach. Another way is to use the frozen cubed pureed spinach to make frozen smoothie in a blender.
Now that we know how to store one of the best leafy green superfoods, spinach, let’s talk a little about how to best enjoy spinach.
Since spinach in its raw form does not last very long and decays rather quickly, it’s best to eat it within a few days of purchase. The best way to enjoy spinach is to make a curry of it. After cleaning, washing, and thoroughly rinsing the spinach, chop it up into small bite-sized pieces. Next, you should add the chopped spinach into soups, chili, stir-fried vegetables, meat or fish, or even spaghetti, and pastas. Chopped spinach also goes very well with your daily morning eggs. Baby spinach added to salads are especially tasty and wholesome. Frozen pureed spinach can also be used in smoothies, soups, stews, and even sauces.
Now that you read this article, we hope you know how to store spinach for a long and a short-term period, along with how to best enjoy your spinach. So, if you’re thinking about purchasing spinach anytime soon, do keep these tips in mind.