SPINACH, Spinacia oleracea

Many folks have written in and asked if we would write about different herbs and fruits and different.

However, recently someone asked me why I sometimes write about vegetables, instead of herbs. Well to quote a grand old herbalist I used to study with, “Remember, not all herbs are vegetables, but all vegetables are herbs.”

To start out with, all plants that we know as vegetables were once wild and uncultivated “weeds.” Even today, there are many weeds that some folks consider useless. However, some of these weeds are being cultivated and domesticated and are becoming useful vegetables. For examples, some cultures today grow dandelions, purslane and amaranth and eat them as vegetables.

The first cultivated spinach was grown in Persia, or what is now Iraq. Around the 11th century, the moors brought the seeds of spinach and other plants to Spain when they conquered that country. From Spain, the spinach plant spread throughout Europe.

Spinach is a fleshy-leaved annual of the goosefoot family. It matures very quickly and it likes cool weather. Summer spinach, or the round seed variety, should be sown in February and March. It grows very quickly and more seeds should be sown intermittently for a longer crop yield. Other varieties, like winter spinach or the prickly seed, are cool, season plants and are very hardy. They can be sown in the late summer. Some leaves can be gathered in the late fall, and through a mild winter and spring. The crop can be harvested in late April and may.

Everyone knows what spinach looks like, so we won’t try to describe it, only to say there is a smooth-leaf and a crinkly leafed spinach. Spinach is a powerhouse of vitamins A, C and D, besides some of the B vitamins. It is well known for its iron content. If you don’t believe me, just ask Popeye-the-Sailor-man. It has a good amount of calcium; however, some say this is tied up with the oxalic acid in the plant.

Spinach, like many other herbs, has wonderful medicinal or healing properties. A few years ago, there were quite a few studies done on spinach. The conclusion was that it is a potent cancer inhibitor. One reason was because it is so rich in chlorophyll. Blood or hemoglobin has virtually the same molecular structure as chlorophyll. The main difference is that the chlorophyll molecule has a magnesium atom and the hemoglobin molecule has an atom of iron. Chlorophyll is very healing. It is almost impossible for germs to multiply in chlorophyll.

It is said that spinach along with cabbage, parsley, broccoli, mustard greens, and other green, leafy vegetables are in high in beta-carotene and histidine which is slow the activity of the cancer cells.

Health is so important in our lives if we want to be happy. Yet, there is so much sickness and misery in our country today. Our sickness is not from famine, deprivation or want of food. Our sickness today is from rich, heavy foods and fast foods or prepared foods with side effects, ranging from a clogged bloodstream and arteries to arthritis and other degenerated diseases. These are foods that clog the body and rob our strength. We are not only fat in our bodies, but fat in our minds also. We eat over five times as much meat as we did fifty years ago. Sixty years ago, every home, even city homes, had a vegetable garden. Nowadays, a garden is hard to find anywhere. What we really need are more fruits and vegetables and more exercise.

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