Last updated

Spinacia oleracea Spinazie bloeiend.jpg
Illustration Spinacia oleracea1.jpg
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Spinacia
S. oleracea
Binomial name
Spinacia oleracea

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green flowering plant native to central and Western Asia. It is of the order Caryophyllales, family Amaranthaceae, subfamily Chenopodioideae. Its leaves are a common edible vegetable consumed either fresh, or after storage using preservation techniques by canning, freezing, or dehydration. It may be eaten cooked or raw, and the taste differs considerably; the high oxalate content may be reduced by steaming.


It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), growing as tall as 30 cm (1 ft). Spinach may overwinter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular, and very variable in size: 2–30 cm (1–12 in) long and 1–15 cm (0.4–5.9 in) broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm (0.1–0.2 in) in diameter, and mature into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) across containing several seeds.

In 2021, world production of spinach was 32 million tonnes, with China alone accounting for 92% of the total. [1]


Originally from Persian, the word aspānāḵ entered European languages from Latin, which borrowed it from Arabic. [2] The English word "spinach" dates to the late 14th century from OF espinache. [3]


Common spinach (S. oleracea) was long considered to be in the family Chenopodiaceae, but in 2003 that family was merged into the Amaranthaceae in the order Caryophyllales. [4] [5] Within the family Amaranthaceae sensu lato , Spinach belongs to the subfamily Chenopodioideae. [6]


As opposed to the great majority of the flowering plants or plants used as vegetables, spinach is a dioicous plant, meaning different plants can have either female or male flowers. [lower-alpha 1] [7]

The flowers are small, green and unattractive to pollinators. Rather, pollination occurs via wind anemophily, for which the pollen has evolved to be very small and light so it can be carried large distances, often miles away.


Spinach is thought to have originated about 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia from which it was introduced to India and later to ancient China via Nepal in 647 AD as the "Persian vegetable". [8] In AD 827, the Arabs introduced spinach to Sicily. [9] The first written evidence of spinach in the Mediterranean was recorded in three 10th-century works: a medical work by al-Rāzī (known as Rhazes in the West) and in two agricultural treatises, one by Ibn Waḥshīyah and the other by Qusṭus al-Rūmī. Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in the Iberian Peninsula by the latter part of the 12th century, where Ibn al-ʻAwwām called it raʼīs al-buqūl, 'the chieftain of leafy greens'. [10] Spinach was also the subject of a special treatise in the 11th century by Ibn Ḥajjāj. [11] [ better source needed ]

Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, probably via Iberia, and gained common use because it appeared in early spring when fresh local vegetables were not available. [8] Spinach is mentioned in the first known English cookbook, the Forme of Cury (1390), where it is referred to as 'spinnedge' and 'spynoches'. [8] [12] During World War I, wine fortified with spinach juice was given to injured French soldiers with the intent to curtail their bleeding. [8] [13]

Culinary use, consumption and nutrition

Spinach is eaten both raw, in salads, and cooked in soups, curries, or casseroles. Notable dishes with spinach as a main ingredient include spinach salad, spinach soup, spinach dip, saag paneer, pkhali, and spanakopita.


Spinach, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 97 kJ (23 kcal)
3.6 g
Sugars 0.4 g
Dietary fiber 2.2 g
0.4 g
2.9 g
Vitamins Quantity
Vitamin A equiv.
469 μg
5626 μg
12198 μg
Vitamin A 9377 IU
Thiamine (B1)
0.078 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.189 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.724 mg
Vitamin B6
0.195 mg
Folate (B9)
194 μg
Vitamin C
28 mg
Vitamin E
2 mg
Vitamin K
483 μg
Minerals Quantity
99 mg
2.71 mg
79 mg
0.897 mg
49 mg
558 mg
79 mg
0.53 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water91.4 g

Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults, [14] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies. [15]

Raw spinach is 91% water, 4% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and contains negligible fat. In a 100 g (3.5 oz) serving providing only 23 calories, spinach has a high nutritional value, especially when fresh, frozen, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, iron and folate. Spinach is a moderate source (10–19% of DV) of the B vitamins, riboflavin and vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber (table).

100 g of spinach contains over four times the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. For this reason, individuals taking the anticoagulant warfarin, which acts by inhibiting vitamin K, are instructed to minimize consumption of spinach (and other dark green leafy vegetables) to avoid blunting the effect of warfarin. [16]

Although spinach contains moderate amounts of iron and calcium, it also contains oxalates, which may inhibit absorption of calcium and iron in the stomach and small intestine. Cooked spinach has lower levels of oxalates, and its nutrients may be absorbed more completely. [17] [18]

Cooking spinach significantly decreases its vitamin C concentration, as vitamin C is degraded by heating. Folate levels may also be decreased, as folate tends to leach into cooking liquid. [19]

Spinach is rich in nitrates and nitrites, which may exceed safe levels if spinach is over-consumed. [20]


Spinach production - 2021
(millions of tonnes)
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 29.8
Flag of the United States (23px).png  United States 0.3
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya 0.2
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 0.2
Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Statistics Division [1]

In 2021, world production of spinach was 32 million tonnes, with China alone accounting for 92% of the total. [1]

Marketing and safety

Fresh spinach is sold loose, bunched, or packaged fresh in bags. Fresh spinach loses much of its nutritional value with storage of more than a few days. [21] Fresh spinach is packaged in air, or in nitrogen gas to extend shelf life. While refrigeration slows this effect to about eight days, fresh spinach loses most of its folate and carotenoid content over this period of time. For longer storage, it is canned, or blanched or cooked and frozen. [21]

Some packaged spinach is exposed to radiation to kill any harmful bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration approves of irradiation of spinach leaves up to 4.0 kilograys, having no or only a minor effect on nutrient content. [22]

Spinach may be high in cadmium contamination depending on the soil and location where the spinach is grown. [23]

The comics and cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man is portrayed as gaining strength by consuming canned spinach. [24] The accompanying song lyric is: "I'm strong to the finich [ sic ], 'cuz I eats me spinach." [25] This is usually attributed to the iron content of spinach, but in a 1932 strip, Popeye states that "spinach is full of vitamin A" and that is what makes people strong and healthy. [26]

The American phrase "I say it's spinach" meaning "nonsense" comes from a 1928 cartoon in The New Yorker. ItsBroccoliCarlRose.jpg
The American phrase "I say it's spinach" meaning "nonsense" comes from a 1928 cartoon in The New Yorker .

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. Asparagus and sorrel are the other notable exceptions.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amaranth</span> Genus of plants

Amaranthus is a cosmopolitan group of more than 50 species which make up the genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants collectively known as amaranths. Some of the more well known names include "prostrate pigweed" and "love lies bleeding". Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, pseudocereals, and ornamental plants. Catkin-like cymes of densely packed flowers grow in summer or fall. Amaranth varies in flower, leaf, and stem color with a range of striking pigments from the spectrum of maroon to crimson and can grow longitudinally from 1 to 2.5 metres tall with a cylindrical, succulent, fibrous stem that is hollow with grooves and bracteoles when mature. There are approximately 75 species in the genus, 10 of which are dioecious and native to North America with the remaining 65 monoecious species endemic to every continent from tropical lowlands to the Himalayas. Members of this genus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related genus Celosia. Amaranth grain is collected from the genus. The leaves of some species are also eaten.

A macrobiotic diet is a fad diet based on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism. The diet tries to balance the supposed yin and yang elements of food and cookware. Major principles of macrobiotic diets are to reduce animal products, eat locally grown foods that are in season, and consume meals in moderation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cabbage</span> Leafy vegetable in the flowering plant family Brassicaceae

Cabbage, comprising several cultivars of Brassica oleracea, is a leafy green, red (purple), or white biennial plant grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. It is descended from the wild cabbage, and belongs to the "cole crops" or brassicas, meaning it is closely related to broccoli and cauliflower ; Brussels sprouts ; and Savoy cabbage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Broccoli</span> Edible green plant in the cabbage family

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head, stalk and small associated leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, or florets, usually dark green, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick stalk which is usually light green. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli resembles cauliflower, which is a different but closely related cultivar group of the same Brassica species.

<i>Beta vulgaris</i> Species of flowering plant

Beta vulgaris (beet) is a species of flowering plant in the subfamily Betoideae of the family Amaranthaceae. Economically, it is the most important crop of the large order Caryophyllales. It has several cultivar groups: the sugar beet, of greatest importance to produce table sugar; the root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet; the leaf vegetable known as chard or spinach beet or silverbeet; and mangelwurzel, which is a fodder crop. Three subspecies are typically recognised. All cultivars, despite their quite different morphologies, fall into the subspecies Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris. The wild ancestor of the cultivated beets is the sea beet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brussels sprout</span> Vegetable

The Brussels sprout is a member of the Gemmifera cultivar group of cabbages, grown for its edible buds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Garden cress</span> Species of edible herb

Cress, sometimes referred to as garden cress to distinguish it from similar plants also referred to as cress, is a rather fast-growing, edible herb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chard</span> Green leafy vegetable

Chard or Swiss chard is a green leafy vegetable. In the cultivars of the Flavescens Group, the leaf stalks are large and often prepared separately from the leaf blade; the Cicla Group is the leafy spinach beet. The leaf blade can be green or reddish; the leaf stalks are usually white, yellow or red.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Collard (plant)</span> Variety of plant

Collard is a group of loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea, the same species as many common vegetables including cabbage and broccoli. Part of the Acephala (kale) cultivar group, it is also classified as the variety B. oleracea var. viridis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kale</span> Form of cabbage with green or purple leaves

Kale, also called leaf cabbage, belongs to a group of cabbage cultivars primarily grown for their edible leaves. It has also been used as an ornamental plant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bok choy</span> Subspecies of flowering plant

Bok choy, pak choi or pok choi is a type of Chinese cabbage, used as food. Chinensis varieties do not form heads and have green leaf blades with lighter bulbous bottoms instead, forming a cluster reminiscent of mustard greens. It has a flavor between spinach and water chestnuts but is slightly sweeter, with a mildly peppery undertone. The green leaves have a stronger flavor than the white bulb.

<i>Portulaca oleracea</i> Annual succulent in the family Portulacaceae

Portulaca oleracea is an annual succulent in the family Portulacaceae.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leaf vegetable</span> Plant leaves eaten as a vegetable

Leaf vegetables, also called leafy greens, pot herbs, vegetable greens, or simply greens, are plant leaves eaten as a vegetable, sometimes accompanied by tender petioles and shoots. Leaf vegetables eaten raw in a salad can be called salad greens.

<i>Basella alba</i> Species of edible plant

Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It is naturalized in China, tropical Africa, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, the West Indies, Fiji and French Polynesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Savoy cabbage</span> Variety of cabbage plant

Savoy cabbage is a variety of the plant species Brassica oleracea. Savoy cabbage is a winter vegetable and one of several cabbage varieties. It has crinkled, emerald green leaves, which are crunchy with a slightly elastic consistency on the palate.

<i>Cnidoscolus aconitifolius</i> Species of tree

Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, commonly known as chaya, tree spinach, or spinach tree, is a large, fast-growing and leafy perennial shrub that is believed to have originated in the Yucatán Peninsula of southeastern México. The specific epithet, aconitifolius, refers to the plant’s "Aconitum-like leaves"—coincidentally, another well-known dangerous, even deadly, genus of plants. As with most euphorbias, the entire plant contains a caustic, viscous and potentially dangerous white sap which flows readily when any part of the plant is broken, cut or damaged.

<i>Moringa oleifera</i> Species of flowering tree

Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree of the family Moringaceae, native to the Indian subcontinent and used extensively in South and Southeast Asia. Common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree, or malunggay.

<i>Tetragonia tetragonioides</i> Species of plant

Tetragonia tetragonioides, commonly called New Zealand spinach, Warrigal greens and other local names, is a flowering plant in the fig-marigold family (Aizoaceae). It is often cultivated as a leafy vegetable.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vegetable</span> Edible plant or part of a plant, involved in cooking

Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The original meaning is still commonly used and is applied to plants collectively to refer to all edible plant matter, including the flowers, fruits, stems, leaves, roots, and seeds. An alternative definition of the term is applied somewhat arbitrarily, often by culinary and cultural tradition. It may exclude foods derived from some plants that are fruits, flowers, nuts, and cereal grains, but include savoury fruits such as tomatoes and courgettes, flowers such as broccoli, and seeds such as pulses.

<i>Breynia androgyna</i> Edible plant

Breynia androgyna, also known as katuk, star gooseberry, or sweet leaf, is a shrub grown in some tropical regions as a leaf vegetable.


  1. 1 2 3 "Spinach production in 2021; Crops/Regions/World/Production Quantity/Year from pick lists". UN Food and Agriculture Organization. 2023. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  2. Julia Cresswell (9 September 2010). Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. OUP Oxford. p. 415. ISBN   978-0-19-954793-7.
  3. "Spinach". Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper. 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  4. "Caryophyllales". www.mobot.org. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  5. Pam Dawling (1 February 2013). Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres. New Society Publishers. pp. 244–. ISBN   978-1-55092-512-8.
  6. Rubatzky, Vincent E.; Yamaguchi, Mas (1997), Rubatzky, Vincent E.; Yamaguchi, Mas (eds.), "Spinach, Table Beets, and Other Vegetable Chenopods", World Vegetables: Principles, Production, and Nutritive Values, Boston, MA: Springer US, pp. 457–473, doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-6015-9_21, ISBN   978-1-4615-6015-9 , retrieved 2021-06-11
  7. Birlouez, Éric (2020). "Une fabuleuse diversité, «L'épinard, légume de carème»" [A fabulous diversity, «Spinach, the lent vegetable»]. Petite et grande histoire des légumes [A small and great history of vegetables]. Carnets de sciences (in French) (1 ed.). Versailles/impr. en Suisse: Quæ. p. 52-54. ISBN   978-2-7592-3196-6. Quæ
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Spinach history - origins of different types of spinach". Vegetable Facts. 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  9. Rolland, Jacques L.; Sherman, Carol (2006). The Food Encyclopedia. Toronto: Robert Rose. pp. 335–338. ISBN   9780778801504.
  10. Ibn al-ʻAwwām, Yaḥyá ibn Muḥammad (1802). "23.8". Kitāb al-Filāḥah. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  11. Clifford A. Wright. Mediterranean Vegetables: A Cook's ABC of Vegetables and their Preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, with More than 200 Authentic Recipes for the Home Cook. (Boston: Harvard Common Press, 2001). pp. 300-301.
  12. Rolland, Jacques; Sherman, Carol (2006). The Food Encyclopedia: Over 8,000 Ingredients, Tools, Techniques and People. Spinach. Toronto: Robert Rose. ISBN   9780778801504. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  13. Margaret Grieve; Maud Grieve (1 June 1971). A modern herbal: the medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folk-lore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs, & trees with all their modern scientific uses. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 761–. ISBN   978-0-486-22799-3 . Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  14. United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels" . Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  15. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium (2019). Oria, Maria; Harrison, Meghan; Stallings, Virginia A. (eds.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). ISBN   978-0-309-48834-1. PMID   30844154.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. Sheps SG (19 April 2018). "Warfarin diet: What foods should I avoid?". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  17. "Osteoporosis Diet & Nutrition: Foods for Bone Health". National Osteoporosis Foundation. 2015-12-21. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  18. Noonan SC, Savage GP (1999). "Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans" (PDF). Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 8 (1): 64–74. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6047.1999.00038.x. PMID   24393738.
  19. Delchier, N; Reich, M; Renard, C.M.G.C. (December 2012). "Impa.ct of cooking methods on folates, ascorbic acid and lutein in green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and spinach (Spinacea oleracea)". Food Science and Technology. 49 (2). Elsevier: 197–201. doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2012.06.017 .
  20. Iammarino, M; Di Taranto, A; Cristino, M. (2014). "Monitoring of nitrites and nitrates levels in leafy vegetables (spinach and lettuce): a contribution to risk assessment". J Sci Food Agric. 94 (4). Wiley: 773–778. Bibcode:2014JSFA...94..773I. doi:10.1002/jsfa.6439. PMID   24122771.
  21. 1 2 Pennsylvania State University (23 March 2005). "Storage time and temperature effects nutrients in spinach". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  22. Bliss, Rosalie Marion (27 May 2010). "Nutrient retention of safer salads explored". US Department of Agriculture.
  23. "ToxGuide for cadmium" (PDF). Atlanta, GA: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, US Department of Health and Human Services. October 2012.
  24. Gabbatt, Adam (8 December 2009). "E.C. Segar, Popeye's creator, celebrated with a Google doodle". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  25. Holloway, Diane (2001). American History in Song: Lyrics from 1900 to 1945. Authors Choice Press. p. 294. ISBN   978-0-595-19331-8 . Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  26. Joe Schwarcz, Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Science of Everyday Life, 2015, ISBN   1770411917, p. 245; spinach actually contains beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A
  27. Douglas Harper. "spinach (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  28. "The Press: I Say It's Spinach" . Time. October 22, 1951. Retrieved February 1, 2014. Many a New Yorkerism (e.g., Cartoonist Carl Rose's 'I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it') has become a part of the language.