See also spinach.
Baby is a variety of spinach with flat, spade-shaped leaves that are soft and tender in texture. While mature bunched spinach generally requires blanching to mellow its bitter taste, baby spinach is so clean and mild in flavor the leaves and stems can be eaten raw.
Eating baby spinach raw is in fact the best way to maximize its nutritional value. This super green is packed with antioxidants (beta carotene and lutein), vitamins (A, B and C) and minerals (calcium, potassium and iron) that may be reduced or destroyed by the cooking process. However you choose to prepare it, baby spinach is high in fiber, low in calories and wonderfully fresh and delicious on its own or in your favorite recipes.
Whether you buy in bulk or convenient pre-washed bags and containers, expect to pay a little more than other spinach varieties. Baby spinach is difficult to grow and has a very short harvest window, though producers make it available year-round.
Look for leaves that are intensely green (no yellow or brown edges), dry and not bruised. If buying bags, the "Best if Used By" date should give you at least a few days to store it after purchase.
Loose leaves can be wrapped in paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. For packaged spinach, sort out any rotting leaves before storing and enjoy within two to four days.
If you have more than you can use, steam the spinach until wilted, squeeze out the excess water and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
Most packaged spinach is labeled "triple-washed" or "ready to eat." However, we recommend that you wash all produce in cold water. Baby spinach is not gritty or sandy like other varieties and the stems do not need to be removed. After rinsing, make sure the spinach is dry before eating or cooking. Pat with paper towel or use your salad spinner.
If cooking, remember the volume of your spinach will be greatly reduced. One pound of fresh leaves will yield about one cup cooked. When serving, plan on 1/2 cup cooked for each person.
It's easy to add a healthy dose of baby spinach to your everyday meal preparations. Line sandwiches with fresh spinach instead of lettuce, stir it into soups and pastas or toss it with walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles and vinaigrette dressing for an exceptional salad.
To cook, sauté in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until it's limp, but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper and you have a quick and easy side dish for fish, pork or chicken.
Try one of our favorite baby spinach recipes:
Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
View BigOven's baby-spinach recipes