Spinach the healthy option

Forget Popeye! Spinach contains many more nutrients than just iron. Actually, the amount of iron in spinach comes way down the list after vitamins A and C, thiamin, potassium and folic acid (one of the B complex vitamins). Dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach, contain lutein and zeaxanthin, both carotenoids. Studies show carotenoids help your eyes stay healthy as you age by preventing macular degeneration and can influence the formation of cataracts. Vitamins A and C, both antioxidants, keep your cardiovascular system healthy, thereby reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Folic acid is essential for the production of red blood cells and for normal growth, and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Nutritional facts

In one cup or 180 grams of cooked spinach, there is only a total of 41 calories, yet it contains 888.48 mcg Vitamin K, 18865.80 IU Vitamin A, 1.68 mg Manganese, 262.80 mcg Folate, 156.60 mg Magnesium, 6.43 mg Iron, 17.64 mg Vitamin C, 0.42 mg Vitamin B2, 244.80 mg Calcium, 838.80 mg Potassium, 0.44 mg Vitamin B6, 0.07 g Tryptophan, 3.74 mg Vitamin E, 4.32 g Fiber, 0.31 mg Copper, 0.17 mg Vitamin B1, 5.35 g Protein, 100.80 mg Phosphorus, 1.37 mg Zinc, 35.46 mg Choline, 0.17 g Omega-3 Fats, 0.88 mg Vitamin B3, and 2.70 mcg Selenium.

Figure 1 Fresh spinach salad

A BIT OF HISTORY

The botanical name for spinach is Spinacia oleracea. Spinacia comes from the Latin word for spine and refers to the prickly seed coat. The species name, oleracea, refers to a plant that is edible. True spinach has varying leaf shapes and textures. There are two major types of leaf textures. Smooth-leaf spinach produces light to dark green leaves with an oblong shape. The leaves of savoy spinach are thicker, rounder, usually darker green, and range from full savoy to semi-savoy.

Spinach has been a diet staple for centuries. Originating so long ago in Asia that the exact location is unknown, the National Garden Bureau found it was introduced into Europe in the 15th century. Americans, such as Thomas Jefferson, grew it as far back as the 19th century. Then, as now, two types of spinach seeds exist: round and prickly. Asian types are primarily prickly seeded and have triangular shaped leaves. The worldwide volume of Asian type spinach is tremendous.

Breeding work with spinach began in earnest in the early part of the 20th century when breeders started selecting and hybridizing varieties with improved disease resistance and slower to bolt in hot weather.

The search for varieties resistant to mildews and viruses, as well as to bolting, continued through the 20th century. Such varieties as 'Viking' in 1935 and 'America' in 1952 were successful enough to win All-America Selections awards, although they are seldom grown today. In 1955, researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture introduced the first hybrid spinach resistant to downy mildew, called by the uncatchy name of 'EH7.' One of the most popular hybrids of the time, 'Melody,' introduced by Royal Sluis, won an AAS award in 1977; the savoy-leaf hybrid grows very fast, is slow to bolt in hot weather, and does well as both a spring and fall crop.  There are now a number of companies breeding spinach. Pop Vriend is one of those, and over the last 25 years, they have made a name for themselves as a successful breeder of spinach.

Figure 2 PV 1029

Figure 3 Jan de  Visser Pop Vriend


Jan de Vissers passion for spinach has driven the program forward with the never ending quest for higher levels of mildew resistance in new commercial spinach lines. His secret: perseverance and work enjoyment in abundance. "It has become a true passion for me."

As Jan says” It’s a race to find the next resistance race.”

A number of winter lines with Pfs 1-12, 14-15 are available commercially this season PV 1029 and Harp. The next generation of Pfs 1-15 lines which are suited to all productions slots will be on show during Lefroy Valleys Salad Mix Field Day.

..And the winner is

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