Popeye would tell you that spinach should be a staple of your diet and he wouldn’t be wrong. This leafy green is packed full of goodness and easy to throw into a huge variety of dishes.
Because it’s generally cheaper to buy spinach in bulk, often a fair amount of your purchase goes to waste, as the leaves can turn dark and smelly quickly if not stored correctly. So the question that often comes up is how to keep spinach fresh?
How do you buy, prep and store spinach so you can enjoy it for as long as possible? Here’s a look at some key components of purchasing, washing and storing spinach, so you can enjoy Popeye’s favorite food anytime you want.
What To Look For When Buying Spinach
The first step to enjoying spinach is to search out the freshest spinach possible.
If you are lucky enough to visit a grocery store with a large selection of produce, you may be able to choose between several kinds of spinach.
Some spinach types have crinkly leaves, some have smooth or only slightly curled leaves and baby spinach has the smallest leaves.
You have the choice to buy it in bunches, bags or clamshells (plastic containers). Bunches are likely the freshest, but that’s not always the case. If it’s in a bag or clamshell, check the expiration date and get the freshest possible.
Look for leaves that are dark green, feel crisp and have a nice, fresh aroma. Avoid bunches that look wilted, spotted, brown or yellow. If the leaves are very dark or slimy, or have a musty smell, don’t buy them!
Another indicator for identifying young, fresh spinach is that the stems are thin.
Once you get home and are prepping your spinach, you may want to cut off the biggest stems, as they can be tough to eat. If you’re using spinach in smoothies, or learning how to start juicing, leave these stems on – they have all the same nutrients of the leaves and will blend up well.
In terms of portions, remember that spinach reduces when cooked, so if you’re wanting to cook it, you should buy more than you think you need. If you want to eat it fresh, only buy as much as you’ll eat in one week.
Even with the best prep and storage, spinach does not last forever. At some point the nutritional value will deteriorate even if the spinach looks fresh.
Best Way To Wash Spinach
One of the key aspects of “looking after” your spinach is how you wash and dry it.
Most people rinse spinach or other greens by running tap water over them.
Here is a more effective method of washing your spinach:
- Clean your sink thoroughly.
- Fill the sink with ice-cold water.
- Dunk your spinach in the water and swish it around, a handful at a time.
- Let the spinach soak for a few seconds in the cold water.
- Repeat the dunking and soaking a few times. Taste a piece to ensure there isn’t any grit on it.
- Continue these steps until all the spinach is washed.
If you’re washing a large amount of spinach, keep an eye on the water. If it turns murky, empty the sink, wash it out and refill it.
This method is more effective at cleaning as the immersion will loosen any dirt on the spinach more effectively than running water. Also, running water can damage the leaves, making them more prone to spoiling.
How To Dry Spinach After Washing
Drying is the next essential step in spinach prep. Once you’re done dunking and soaking the spinach, drain using a colander, and then lay it out on paper towels or clean towels.
You can do this as you go, so that some of the spinach is drying on towels while you continue to wash the entire batch. Use towels to pat the spinach dry.
If you have a salad spinner, you can use this to spin dry small amounts at a time.
Or be super-efficient and use the spinner as part of the washing and drying process:
- Remove the colander part of the spinner.
- Put the spinach in the colander in small batches.
- Dunk the colander in water, swishing and soaking the spinach within the colander. Dunk and swish several times.
- Take the colander and spinach out of the water, shake it to remove excess water, put it in the spinner and spin away.
As you dry each batch of spinach, place it on the towels or paper towels.
With some trial and error, you will figure out the best method for you. Some people still prefer to rinse each leaf under running water before soaking, but if you do that, be gentle with the leaves.
If you’re eating it right away, it’s ready to go. If you’re storing it, make sure the spinach is as dry as possible.
How To Store Spinach In The Fridge
If you bought a large supply, or you’re doing prep ahead of time, proper storage is key:
- Ensure spinach is as dry as possible.
- Wrap it in clean paper towels, or in a clean tea towel. The toweling will absorb any excess moisture once the spinach is in the fridge, ensuring it stays fresh.
- Put the spinach in a clean container. This can be a sealable bag, a sealed bowl, or even the clamshell you purchased it in.
- Store the spinach in the crisper for up to seven days.
If you aren’t eating the spinach regularly, check on it every day or two. It’s important not to eat it if it spoils, so discard any darkened or “slimy” textured leaves. Dry remaining spinach if it isn’t already dry, and put it back in the fridge.
How To Keep Spinach Fresh Longer
In summary, here are the key things to remember in the process of keeping your spinach fresh for a long period of time:
- If you aren’t going to use it right away, don’t wash it. Wait until you are ready to eat it, or until you want to wash it to prepare it for imminent use.
- Be gentle with it, particularly if you purchased it in a bag. The more the leaves get banged and bumped, the quicker they will spoil. Any bruising will speed up the decaying process.
- Store spinach in a crisper if possible as it keeps the temperature and moisture more controlled than the rest of the fridge.
- Store washed spinach as described above – wrapped in towels to absorb excess moisture, and in a sealed container. Use something other than a bag if you think it will get bumped around in your fridge.
How Do You Keep Spinach From Getting Slimy?
As much as I love spinach – raw, cooked or in a smoothie – one of the worst hazards is having fresh spinach turn black, slimy and stinky.
So how do you prevent that? Well, the most obvious way is to eat it as soon as possible, preferably within a few days.
But that’s not always possible. Perhaps your meal plans changed, or maybe you live a distance from a store and want to purchase in bulk so you have spinach on hand.
Whatever the case, here are some ideas to prevent your spinach from getting slimy:
- Don’t wash the spinach until you’re ready to eat it.
- Eat the spinach within a few days of purchasing it.
- Follow the washing and storing solutions above, ensuring the spinach is as dry as possible before storing. It’s the moisture that makes it deteriorate and turn slimy.
- If you still have too much spinach, consider blanching and freezing it.
Spinach is a dark, green, leafy vegetable, and as such it is an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Fresh spinach will provide the greatest value of nutrients, but fresh spinach brings with it some extra considerations for the chef.
Buying the freshest possible spinach and washing and storing it correctly are your key ways to ensure you enjoy your purchase to the fullest, enabling you to make a variety of foods with this delicious and versatile green.