Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Savoring Spinach (page 4 of 4)

by Ellen Ogden

Spinach Enchiladas

This dish can be made with spinach or any of its close cousins. The "heat" can vary, depending on the salsa you use.

Preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1/4 cup chopped hot peppers, or 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
8 cups spinach (savoy or smooth-leafed)
8 corn tortillas
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup salsa

Preheat oven to 375&deg F and oil an ovenproof casserole dish. In a skillet over medium heat, sautee onion and garlic in oil until golden. Stir in peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, wash spinach well in warm water, then transfer to the skillet with water still clinging to the leaves. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the spinach is wilted (5 to 8 minutes). While the spinach is cooking, wrap tortillas in a moist towel or foil and soften them in the oven (or heat them rapidly on the stove in a skillet with a touch of oil). Place 1/4 cup of the spinach mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and place, seam side down, in the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Top with cheese and salsa. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Serves 2 to 4.

Spinach Substitutes

Though spinach is easy to grow in spring and fall, it can be hard to keep through the hot summer. Plant these warm-weather spinach cousins for midsummer harvests.

New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa) is a close kin to beets and Swiss chard. It has a vigorous, spreading habit and can reach two feet tall. As with beets, each seed is actually a fruit and will produce several plants. To hasten germination, soak seeds overnight in warm water prior to planting.

Malabar spinach (Basella alba) is a good plant to grow if space is limited, because the plants can be trained to climb on a fence or trellis. We saw Malabar spinach in Holland, trained as a topiary around a circular wreath frame.

Orach (Atriplex hortensis) is closely related to lamb's-quarters and comes in a range of colors, from green to yellow to red. It can rapidly reach six feet tall but is most edible before it reaches a foot.

Our favorite spinach substitute is 'Perpetual Spinach Beet', a chard that produces fine-textured spinachlike leaves with much smaller stems than other chards. Because it is a biennial, it will not go to seed in hot weather and is very much a cut-and-come-again green, supplying a steady source of tender green leaves from spring until fall.

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