What Can't Spinach Do?!

You can thank the Persians, Italians and Popeye the Sailorman for popularizing this amazingly healthy green veg. Legend has it that spinach originated in Persia and traveled east to China and then to Europe where the Italians embraced the iron- and vitamin-packed leafy green. Further lore states that Catherine de Medici, originally from Florence, Italy, brought spinach and her own chefs to prepare it when she married King Henry II of France. From then on, any dish created with spinach was dubbed “Florentine”. The spinach trends continued, but the next notable spike in popularity was in 1929 in the U.S. when Popeye the Sailorman debuted as a comic. When he needed to save the day, he would pop open a can of spinach and his biceps would balloon and he could tackle any physical challenge that came his way! According to an article on livescience.com, “Spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in U.S. spinach consumption and saving the spinach industry in the 1930s.” That’s incredible! Because of this amazing feat, in 1937 Popeye became the first cartoon character to be sculpted and displayed in public in the U.S. If you’re ever in Crystal City, TX, you can check it out!

Popeye statue in Crystal City, TX. Photo by J. Stephen Conn made accessible by creative commons.org.

Popeye statue in Crystal City, TX. Photo by J. Stephen Conn made accessible by creative commons.org.

ACTIVITY

Cook it!

Pick a meal, any meal – even snack time – and have fun with your kids searching for recipes in cook books and online that include spinach. Then, get cooking! Just watching spinach cook down can be a really cool experience. As you watch the leaves shrink in size, you can start a science-focused conversation about volume versus mass! You can also talk about the amazing healthy benefits. Another great feature of cooking spinach is how easy it is to enhance the flavor by adding spices and herbs. Have yourkids follow a recipe and even improvise a little in their cooking, especially if it makes them more inclined to eat this nutritious vegetable!

Blend it!

Green smoothies are all the rage right now and rightfully so. If you blend up spinach and add in fruits and yogurt, you are packing your day with a nutritious punch! While the smoothie will still be a very loud green, camouflaging spinach in this way can be a great way to get kids to get more of their daily value in vegetables! There are tons of recipes online, so start hunting and get your kids involved. Seeing something blended up into shreds and seeing how colors change when new ingredients are added can be a cool activity too!

Grow It!

If your family likes to garden, growing spinach can be a great way to introduce and invest in vegetable consumption. Depending on where you live will dictate when you should plant, but in any circumstance, Spinach thrives in nitrogen-rich soil, so try to prep your soil with compost. Plant seeds a few inches apart and 1 to 1 ½ inches deep, water them every day and patiently wait. Encourage your children to create a chart and record when the plants germinate, rise above the soil and how tall they grow. Then when you have enough, harvest and enjoy!

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