Opinionated Spinach

Now in Week Two of the E.coli spinach scare, the public health mystery remains unsolved and has to date affected 173 people in 25 states. Banished from supermarket aisles and restaurant menus, spinach has become the subject of countless thorny debates, from culprits to dinner-plate substitutes.

Here, a spinach-scare opinion sampler plate that has been served up during the course of this agri-drama:

The intricacies of the federal food safety system are under scrutiny ... if cattle farmers would stop feeding cows grain and feed them grass, then the spinach problem would disappear ... Obesity is a more pressing public health problem than contaminated spinach ... the spinach ban, seen through a child's eyes ... and to round out the menu, a helping of spinach satire...

Got something to say about the spinach story that won't go away? Share in the comments area below.

P.S. If you're going through spinach withdrawal, remember, there are other eligible members of the green leafy department, including collard greens, kale or chard, all nutritional powerhouses in their own right.

In fact, 1 cup of raw chard (or 1/2 cup cooked) offers whopping amounts of Vitamin K and A just like spinach, but also offers half -- as in 50 percent -- of your daily requirement for Vitamin C! Although it lags behind spinach in iron (22 percent to spinach's 35.7 percent), chard beats spinach in the Vitamin E race (16.6 to 8.6 percent), proving it's far from a shabby substitute.

And if you're just getting up to snuff on the spinach scare, I wrote about the leafy green from the local/seasonal angle in this space last week.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 25, 2006; 9:59 AM ET Food in the News
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Yes, but collard greens and kale have to be cooked. Cooked greens aren't the problem. By the way, if spinach has been contaminated, how do we know that other salad greens, grown in the same areas and using the same methods are safe?

Posted by: Alexandria | September 25, 2006 1:22 PM

It seems like the answer is simple. Buy spinach at your farmers market or coop. It's likely to be grown organically and away from mega-farming techniques that may have contributed to the spinach problem in California. I went to our local farmers market here in St. Paul and there was an abundance of beautiful fresh greens including lots of spinach.

Posted by: Karen | September 25, 2006 3:24 PM

Is frozen spinach ok to eat?

Posted by: Sarah | September 25, 2006 3:56 PM

As I understand it, the spinach is question was organically grown. That was the problem. Manure was used as fertilizer and that's where the E-Coli came from.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 4:03 PM

The *real* nutro-powerhouse vegetable is dandelion greens. And they're free! They tend to appear in profusion in the spring and early autumn, and I'm never happier about my inattention to these "weeds" in my lawn.

Vitamin A: 54%
Vitamin C: 32%
Vitamin E: 13%
Various B: 2-8%
Vitamin K: 188%!

... plus, all kinds of minerals. All hail the lowly dandelion!

Posted by: Fritz | September 25, 2006 4:15 PM

So, we're supposed to believe that Olive Garden's spinach artichoke dip is made with fresh spinach?

Cause they wouldn't sell us any today.

Kinda hard to believe that's not a frozen product.

Posted by: dynagirl | September 25, 2006 4:46 PM

Me again. Another reader points out (correctly from what I have read) that some of the implicated spinach may have been organically grown and that manure may have been used as fertilizer. It seems that as the investigations continue we will learn more about what caused the sickness soon. But one writer (Nina Planck) had a recent article indicating that it is the manure of grain fed cattle raised on industrial farms that contains this particularly virulent strain of E. coli. Apparently, this strain is not found in the digestive tracts of grass or hay-fed cattle. Supposedly, this has something to do with this strain of E. coli being able to grow in the more acidic stomach acids of grain fed animals. Like I said, I think we'll know more about this soon. But in the meantime, I'm going to buy the locally grown spinach at my farmers market and coop. I'm assuming these are less likely grown in proximity to large scale industrial farming. And when I buy at the farmers market, I can talk to the grower myself. I've heard that farmers can grow spinach and other greens under plastic most of the year even here in the northern tundra (Minnesota!)

Posted by: Karen | September 25, 2006 6:15 PM

We should eat only grass fed beef with some hay for winter feed. Grain fed beef is not a choice when people are hungry.

Posted by: Gary Masters | September 25, 2006 7:13 PM

Tried submitting this to the chat today but couldn't get through...

With all the talk of banned spinach, I (like lots of people) have been craving the greens! Last night I made a braised greens dish that was outstanding, so I thought I'd share:

Spicy Braised Greens (serves 2 as a side dish)
8 ounces mixed greens, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used a blend of mustard, kale, turnip and collard greens)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 tsp ground chiles in oil (or sub a couple shakes of crushed red pepper flakes)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth (low-salt!)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet over med-high, heat the oil. Add onions and saute till softened. Add garlic & chiles (or red pepper flakes), stir for about 30 seconds.

Add greens, toss to coat, and toss until slightly wilted. Add broth, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or until greens are tender (may need to add a bit more broth if the pan gets a little dry.

Remove lid and cook over high heat until the liquid is almost gone. Add balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve hot.

Posted by: Divine Ms. K | September 26, 2006 12:56 PM

As some other folks have mentioned, it seems that the manure may be the culprit... or rather, our not-so-brilliant idea that grain is good to feed cows may be the culprit. I just wrote a blog entry about it myself.


Posted by: Eva | September 27, 2006 3:27 PM

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