QUESTION: Are spinach stems poisonous? Is it necessary to cut them off when preparing spinach? -Lea R.
ANSWER: Spinach stems are not poisonous. In fact, they’re just as safe and delicious to eat as the leaves are. As long as the spinach is young and the stems are thin enough that you can easily bend them, there’s no reason to remove the stems before you prepare a bunch of spinach—unless you’ve noticed the stems are especially stringy or you personally find them annoying to chew. If the stems are thicker and more fibrous, as happens with more mature spinach, they might be tougher than the delicate leaves, so in that case they should be removed before you cook the spinach.
Separate the stems from your fresh spinach before you wash and prepare your greens. To take the stem out of spinach leaves quickly and easily, fold the leaf in half lengthwise and hold the leaf at its base with your fingers on the outside (opposite of the side with the stem). Then pull up the length of the leaf to cleanly extract the stem.
You can save the stems you remove for vegetable stock if that’s something you make yourself, or you can simply discard them. If you want to really get the most out of your homegrown spinach, visit the Respect Food website, which has several ideas for preparing spinach stems so they can shine on their own as a standalone dish.