Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia.
Spinach is an annual plant which grows to about 30 cm tall. The green leaves are alternate, simple and rounded. The name spinach translates roughly to 'green hand'. Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran). Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in Spain by the latter part of the twelfth century. It first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, probably via Spain, and it gained quick popularity because it appeared in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods.
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is very rich in antioxidants, and an excellent source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.
Polyglutamyl folate (Vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be a rich source of iron, and has a high calcium content.