If you told my childhood self that one day I’d crave a spinach smoothie, the echo of my laughter probably still would be ringing today.
Oh, how my tune has changed! That Shrek-colored smoothie I’m slurping down is loaded with spinach. My kids will even drink one.
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the spinach at my house came in a can, and it was slimy-seaweed slick. My mom liked to jazz it up with crumbled boiled eggs. It was the stuff of nightmares, complete with visions of the Grim Reaper coming to take me away, because I would rather die than eat it.
Somewhere along the way, spinach got a marketing overhaul. Farmers began to use public relations teams, ad campaigns and recipes upon recipes to raise interest in their crop. The plan worked. Spinach consumption in the U.S. was 12 times greater in 2005 than in 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Much of the growth in the past decade has been due to sales of triple-washed cellophane-packed spinach, and more recently, baby spinach, the USDA reports, noting that these products are among the fastest-growing segments of the packaged salad industry. A USDA veggie census taken from 2004 to 2006 showed that fresh-market spinach consumption in the United States hit an average 2.2 pounds per person. It hadn’t hit that peak since the 1940s.
Popeye the Sailor Man remains the poster child for the healthful powers of spinach, which is packed with vitamins C and A, the carotenoid lutein, iron, folic acid and magnesium. It’s great in salads, on sandwiches, flash-pan sautéed and — surprise — in smoothies.
Here’s a smoothie recipe that’s popular at my house. As with most smoothies, the recipe is forgiving. Feel free to swap strawberries for blueberries or another fruit. Add some Greek yogurt if you want a burst of protein. Have fun guessing what color your drink will turn out. (Hint: Blueberries mask the green.)
Berry Lemon Surprise
1 ripe banana
1 cup strawberries
1 cup ice
2 cups washed fresh spinach leaves
Splenda, agave, honey or other sweetener (optional)
Remove tough stems from the spinach. Slice the lemon, cut off the rind and remove the seeds. (Save the rind for zesting in other recipes.) Put the lemon and its juice, along with the remaining ingredients, into a blender. Process until smooth. Add more ice or juice if you want a different consistency. If the smoothie is too tart for your taste, sweeten it with Splenda, agave or honey.
— Mickey H. Gramig