Spring Up, Little Spinach!

It’s really, really almost spring. As I write, the steady rain is washing away the dirty snowbanks that towered over us all winter. The annual rebirth of all the plants is a presence, all the energy marshalling under the frozen earth, waiting for the signal to burst forth and grow.

I think I am going to make it.

It’s also almost time for local growers to get into some of their early activities, and some indoor growers may even be able to harvest the first greens of spring. Now, like any good healthy eater, I have been powering through my kales and chards all winter. I’ve bought and blanched many a bunch of fine spinach, too. But the tender, young spinach of the first harvests, well, that is another thing entirely.

Ok, we can get fresh greens from Cali anytime of year, and they are pretty good. But depending where you live, it’s the time of year when you can have those super fresh, super tender spinach leaves that fully explain exactly why spinach is so beloved.

If you have ever bitten into a forkful of spinach salad and thought, wow, this is going to take some chewing, well, baby spinach is for you. Salads made with baby spinach are a treat, and the perfect seasonal flavor pairing of spring strawberries and raspberries in spinach salads is a super food that is super delicious.

Did you know that the brighter the green in your spinach, the more vitamin C is in there? Those greens that traveled a few thousand miles over winter were losing C all the way, so the stuff from closer to home will have more.

Spinach is also getting attention for its glycoglycerolipids It’s looking like these chemicals, which aid in photosynthesis, help prevent inflammation. Spinach is already a sweet source of antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin A, Manganese and folate, and magnesium to help remineralize bones. A cup of boiled spinach has enough iron for 35% of your daily value, and 30% of the C.

Try a bed of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, and spring onions, and make a dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive and flax oil, salt and pepper. For a little more heft, add walnuts, or boiled eggs or goats cheese crumbles, if you are ovo-lacto leaning.

It’s also the perfect quick addition to pastas or roasted dishes- you can add the sliced leaves to the hot pasta or roasted veggies and just toss it to wilt in the residual heat.

I like to make an easy pasta where I simply cook whole wheat angelhair, adding some julienned carrots to it while it boils. Then while it drains, heat olive oil and garlic in the pasta cooking pot, and toss in the baby spinach. Turn a few times and add the hot pasta, and some lemon zest and juice if its handy. Turn it in the hot pan until the spinach is barely wilted, the whole mess is coated in garlicky oil, and salt and pepper to taste. If you eat cheese, this is a great place to feature a distinctive cheese, like your fave local goat cheese crumbles or a shredded aged cheese from a grass fed dairy. It you are vegan, a sprinkling of toasted almonds would be sublime.

And let the new energy of the fresh greens fill you back up, after a long winter. You deserve it.