This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Lapathum hortense, or Spinach, (of the Goosefoot tribe), as grown in our kitchen gardens, is actually a Persian plant which was brought to England during the sixteenth century; its spiny leaves have given it the name it bears, "Spinage," being the more correct spelling. The plant contains salts of potash abundantly. It is a light vegetable, of which the thick, succulent leaves are cooked, and eaten, being readily digested, and somewhat laxative. It is richer in iron than the yolk of egg, which in its turn contains more thereof than lean beef does. "Spinach," says Evelyn, "if crude, the oft'ner kept out of sallets the better; but its juice, when produced by boiling the leaves without adding any water, is a wholesome drink, and improves the complexion. What is known as the pigment ("Spinage Green "), as used for colouring, is the freshly expressed juice of this plant, or its precipitate. An excellent way of cooking Spinach is to chop it up finely, and stew it in butter; if it be cooked in water this water will have a strong smell.
A French physician styles Spinach "le balai de I'estomac," "the broom of the stomach"; people know the plant in France as "Epinards," whilst containing a small quantity of sorrel salt, the binoxalate of potash; they like it with much butter, and call it therefore "la mort au beurre." Their epicures teach "when eating it not forget the nutmeg." Brillat Savarin never had Spinach served to him on a Friday unless it had been cooked the Sunday before, and put each day over the fire with a fresh addition of butter. A wild species of Spinach, the "Good King Henry," or Margery, grows about rural England, particularly in Lincolnshire, where it is popular as a pot-herb in most cottage gardens. Another excellent way of dressing the ordinary Spinach is to "wash your Spinach well, break off the leaves, boil (without adding water, or only a drain) until tender, dry, chop fine, and fry in butter until thoroughly done; add a tablespoonful of white sugar, and mix thoroughly; place in a dish some toasted bread cut into small squares, and put these on the Spinach, or else some slices of hard-boiled egg." To make Extract of Spinach: "Comminute in a mortar one pound of Spinach, and when it is quite a paste, place it on a strong cloth, roll it up, and twist the opposite ends so as to wring the cloth, and Spinach, and express the juice; (for making it more easy to twist the cloth use two cooking spoons as levers, - one at each end.) Then place the extracted juice in a pan, and heat it until the chlorophyllin, and the albumin are coagulated; next drain off the water, and work it through a tammy." It was with a delicate offering of gammon (of pork), and Spinach, in his hands, Mr. Anthony Roley, of Nursery fame, went a-wooing, calamitous as to its result.
"Ranula furtivos statuebat quoerere amores; Me miserum! tristi Rolius ore gemit: Ranula furtivos statuebat quoerere amores, Mater sive daret, sive negaret iter".