Washing Spinach vs. Packaged Spinach

Claudia is a “Good Mom.”  She buys spinach for her family because it’s so tender, tasty and full of nutrients.  But getting her family to help wash it is like climbing Mt. Everest.  Week after week, spinach goes to waste in their household.

Ray doesn’t like washing spinach any more than Claudia’s crew.  But neither will he shell out the extra dollars for the pre-washed variety.

So even though Ray and Claudia’s family all like spinach and would love to eat more, they end up with none. Not a happy ending in spring, when spinach is the star of the seasonal show.  What to do?

Getting Past the Money Thing The money thing is understandable.  You’re standing in the vegetable aisle.  Bunch spinach is $1.99.  Next to it are packages of pre-washed spinach for $2.99.  In the context of the grocery store, a dollar is a lot.  So right then and there, it seems foolhardy to pay for the packaged spinach.

That would be fine if we went ahead and bought the $1.99 bunch.   But all too often we don’t, which is why it’s worth examining the money thing a little more closely.

From the safe perch of this blog, well outside the grocery store context, the perspective is a little clearer:   It’s a dollar we’re talking about.  The difference between eating spinach and reaping its many benefits and not eating it at all is a single dollar. Maybe you eat spinach two or three times a month.   That’s $3 for the entire month.  Need I say anything about the cost of a single latte?

The 5-Minute Thing Assuming you can face down the money thing, there’s another big problem with the pre-washed spinach:  its packaging.  What happens to that plastic shoe box after fulfilling its single job of delivering your pre-washed spinach?  Of course we can “just throw it away.”  But as Julia Butterfly Hill so simply and poignantly puts it:  “There really is no such place as “away.”  This is what keeps Claudia from reaching for the packaged spinach at the store—and what leaves her with a washing problem and rotting spinach.

It’s no surprise that no one in her family wants to wash spinach.  It’s inconvenient and takes time and in our frenzied culture, that is sufficient cause for panic if not disdain.  But just like the money thing, it helps to stop and think:  just how much time is at stake?

I forced myself to quantify my time fears recently while staring at a leftover plastic spinach box.  Just how much does it take to wash a bunch of spinach?  Out of curiosity, we timed it for the Washing Spinach video for this month’s Vegetable-a-Month Club.    [[LINK]]

Spinach washing takes 5 minutes.   So we’re talking about 5 minutes.

There’s some real data instead of just more vague time fears.  So when I am torn between packaged and bunch spinach I ask myself, can I afford 5 minutes out of 16 waking hours for clean air?  Are pure water and fewer toxins in our dirt worth 5 minutes?

The Best of Both Worlds Happily, there is a solution that takes some of the environmental sting out of buying pre-washed spinach.  Some stores have bulk bins of pre-washed spinach.  The price isn’t much better than the boxed stuff, but at least you can take it home in a recycled plastic produce bag.  While I would still wash it (who knows how many hands have touched it), washing spinach in this form doesn’t take any longer than any other vegetable.

Farmer’s market spinach is often sold in bulk bins, too, and when sold in this form it is very often pre-washed.  It must definitely be given a final wash at home but again, this doesn’t take long.

Take the Aggravation out of Spinach Washing There’s one final way to tackle the spinach conundrum:  Take the annoyance out of spinach washing!  Then it isn’t a barrier to buying the less expensive, more environmentally friendly forms of spinach.    First, if you’re in a hurry, instead of tearing the spinach, use a long serrated knife to cut it to the right size.  Next, don’t get overly worried if a few stems find their way into your spinach.   Finally, get a large washing vehicle, like a salad spinner or a pasta pot with an insert.  Then you don’t need to scrub the sink before washing.

Find more tips on the Washing Spinach video from the Vegetable a Month Club—and enjoy spinach with abandon when it comes into season in spring and fall.


One Response

  1. I’m the “Ray” in the spinach story, thanks again Mary for your valuable insights! One more spinach question: We saw Michael Pollan speak in Boulder a couple weeks back, he’s a big proponent of frozen vegetables. He says, “They’re just as good nutritionally” as fresh. Mary, do you agree? And what about the energy costs involved with freezing vegetables vs, transporting them to market fresh?


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