Wondering how to tell if spinach is bad? Here’s everything you need to know plus tips for proper storage to lengthen the shelf life.
Eating plenty of vegetables and plants is important for a healthy lifestyle. But, it can be hard to keep those items fresh in the fridge long enough to utilize their benefits.
This is especially true for salads and leafy greens like spinach.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve the shelf life of your spinach and keep it fresh for more time.
So, here’s how to tell if spinach is bad, the best way to store spinach, and easy spinach recipes to try!
What is spinach?
If you’ve ever heard of Popeye the Sailor Man, you probably already know what spinach is. But for those who don’t, spinach is a green leafy vegetable similar to lettuce and kale.
It’s incredibly versatile and used in salads, soups, dips, and even green smoothies.
You can find it in any grocery store or your local farmer’s market. It’s also a popular vegetable for home gardeners.
The Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is known as a superfood due to its nutritional properties and low calories. It’s packed with valuable nutrients like Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, and more!
Medical News Today states that spinach can treat or prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer, it can help lower blood sugar and even improve bone, skin, and hair health.
Who wouldn’t want that?!
How long does spinach last?
The shelf life of raw spinach is relatively short. An unopened bag of spinach can last up to two weeks if properly stored. Unbagged spinach tends to last longer but the exact timeframe is hard to pinpoint.
The expiration date on a bag or container of spinach is usually a good indicator of when it will go bad. It’s possible to get an extra few days out of it, but you’ll usually see early signs of decay like browning on the edge of the leaves and wilting.
How to Tell if Spinach is Bad
There’s nothing like using fresh spinach leaves for a delicious salad or wrap, but an opened bag of those crisp green leaves doesn’t last for long.
You can easily use your senses to tell if spinach is past its prime.
- Spinach leaves will develop an unpleasant smell once they’ve gone bad.
- This strong smell is often accompanied by a darkened color of the leaves.
- Other common traits of bad spinach are shrinkage of the leaves, excess moisture, blue or black mold spots, and a soggy texture.
Slimy spinach is a sure sign it’s time to throw it away!
Spinach may also have light yellow spots that don’t wash away that indicate herbicide burn or damage. In these cases, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get rid of all of the spinach or at least the leaves that have the spots on them.
How to Wash Spinach
If you have a bundle of spinach held together with a band or wire, leave it like this for the first step of washing.
- Take the spinach by the stems and dunk the top part (the leaves) in a large bowl of cold water (or you can use a clean sink basin).
- Shake the leaves around so dirt and sand shake loose into the water.
- Take the spinach out of the water and dab it on a paper towel.
- Dump the bowl or empty the sink and refill with fresh, cold water.
- Next, cut off the bulk of the stems and remove the wire or band.
- Add the loose spinach leaves back into the bowl or sink and mix them around with your hand to remove any remaining grit. Remaining dirt and sand should sink to the bottom.
- Lift the spinach out with your hand or a slotted spoon and pat it completely dry with paper towels, or use a salad spinner.
If you have a pre-cut bag of spinach follow steps 6-7.
Tips for Storing Spinach
Though spinach doesn’t last long, there are some tricks you can use to keep it fresher longer.
- When you’re picking your spinach at the store, make sure you get the freshest bundle or package you can. Stay away from spinach that already has signs of spoilage like dark spots or droopiness.
- Once you get it home, keep your spinach as dry as possible until you need to use it. The best place is a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.
- Keep pre-bagged spinach in its original packaging. This packaging has special gasses pumped into it to preserve the leaves longer.
- When you’re ready to use spinach, you should wash it beforehand. But, ideally, you should only wash what you plan to use at the time.
- After you wash your spinach, be sure to pat the leaves dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.
- Once the spinach is completely dry, you can pack it in an airtight container lined with paper towels. Make sure you use a clean container so there’s no cross-contamination.
- You can also store the spinach in your salad spinner with paper towels on the bottom.
- If you want to go the extra mile, add your spinach a layer at a time, with paper towels in between.
How to Freeze Spinach
It’s also possible to freeze spinach for use in smoothies or heated recipes like omelets. You don’t want to use frozen spinach for salads or sandwiches as it will no longer be crisp.
- Blanch your spinach in boiling water for no more than 30 seconds.
- Immediately transfer the spinach to an ice bath to stop the cooking.
- Let the spinach cool for about 2 minutes. (This process helps to preserve the color, taste, texture, and nutrient value in the leaves).
- Squeeze out any excess water and place the spinach in a plastic bag.
- Remove any excess air and then store in the freezer until you need it. You can bring the spinach back to room temperature before cooking it or throw it right in if you’re making a smoothie.
Frozen spinach can last up to 12 months, other wise it may develop .
Can spinach be dangerous?
While spinach is considered a health food, it can also be dangerous if not cleaned and properly handled. And that starts from the time it’s grown, picked, processed, and packaged.
Spinach and other leafy greens are often subject to recalls due to e. coli or contamination from other harmful bacteria like salmonella.
Because of that, you should always rinse vegetables and fruits before consumption. And that goes for products labeled as “prewashed” too!
Pre-packaged foods that come in salad kits are more likely to be contaminated.
If you can, choose spinach that’s gone through less processing and handling or you can even grow your own!
Though it is possible to get food poisoning from bad spinach, its benefits typically outweigh any health risks when properly cleaned and stored.
Bad spinach can cause food poisoning and make you sick. You may experience a stomach ache, nausea, or vomiting.
If these symptoms are severe or you develop a fever, you should seek medical attention right away.
Fresh spinach can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge if properly stored.
Bagged spinach is typically good by the use-by date or up to 5 days afterward.
It is not okay to eat slimy spinach.
Spoiled spinach contains harmful bacteria that can give you food poisoning and make you ill. Not to mention, the slimy texture is not appetizing at all. It’s a bad idea!
You should not use spoiled spinach even if you plan to cook it. Spinach that is past its prime is much better suited for the compost pile!
Recipes with Spinach
Now that you know how to tell if spinach is bad and the best way to store those leafy greens, here are some easy and delicious recipes to try!