Used in almost every cuisine across the world, spinach is an enormously popular green vegetable. The leaves can be either flat or slightly ruffled, and are a bright green when young, deepening to a more intense colour when older. The bitter flavour is distinctive - you either love it or hate it - and particularly complements dairy products and eggs.
The milder, young leaves can be eaten raw in a salad, while the older ones are usually cooked (spinach has one of the shortest cooking times of all vegetables). It reduces very dramatically during cooking; a 450g bag will be just enough for two people.
Choose the best
Go for spinach with bright green leaves, tender but crisp stems and a fresh smell. Avoid any that is yellowing or wilting.
If you have bought pre-washed bagged spinach it will probably only need a quick rinse to freshen it up. In contrast, loose spinach needs thorough washing in a colander to remove dirt and grit.
Shake the excess water off (if you plan to stir-fry it or eat it raw in a salad, you should pat it dry with kitchen paper, too). Older spinach may have tough stems - cut these off. If the rib of the leaf is particularly big, fold the leaf in half lengthways with the rib facing outwards, then tear it away from the leaf.
In a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. Don't wash before you refrigerate, or the leaves will go soggy.
Raw in salads. Roast (8-10 minutes). Slice and stir fry (1-2 minutes). Steam whole (3-4 minutes).
For more information on spinach see ingredient focus...spinach.
Try Swiss chard or cabbage.