Spinach (Palak) - Know Your Ingredient

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Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable that has smooth leaves that is generally cooked but is also eaten raw in the form of salads. Spinach is first believed to have been found in the diets of ancient Persians, but it was also naturally found to be grown in many parts of Asia. It was originally believed to be a winter plant, but now spinach is available throughout the year. Although the winter varieties of Spinach are known to have darker and larger leaves. It is also generally recommended that one avoids spinach during the monsoon seasons in India, as the leafs tend to carry a lot of ground water. Spinach is said to have a bitter sweet flavor and hence many times, the large varieties of spinach are most of eaten in the cooked form.

Natives names:  Hindi (Palak), Tamil (Keerai)

How to select: Buy spinach with bright green leaves where the veins and stem are soft and tender. Avoid spinach that is yellowish in color or that is wilted or has dull leaves. Tender or young spinach leaves are always more flavorful. Be sure to buy spinach in large quantities, as it reduces  greatly in quantity during the cooking process.

How to store:  Once the spinach is bought, trim tough stems and store the un-washed spinach leaves wrapped tightly in cotton cloth and then into ziplock bag. This way spinach leaves stay fresh for a longer duration. Make sure you wash the spinach leaves before consumption as the leaves and stems will have the soil and chemicals.

Culinary Uses: Young spinach leaves are profoundly used for making soups, salad, stir-fry and sandwich also spinach puree is added to curries, lentils or meat dishes to give healthy dimension to the dish.

Recommended Cooking Techniques: Steaming and Sautéing are the most healthiest ways to prepare the nutritious greens. Its it important that you don't over cook the spinach greens, as nutrition content will be lost the more it is exposed to heat. So essentially, you cook spinach only when you are ready to eat and serve, as this wonder leaf cooks in minutes and tastes best when eaten fresh.

Health Benefits: Spinach is one the many green leafy vegetables that have been recommended by nutritionist over the years to avoid the risk of developing diabetes. Research says, spinach helps improving blood glucose levels in diabetics, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health, lowering the risk of developing asthma and more.  Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein, and choline.

Hina Gujral

Hina Gujral

     
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