Not only is spinach at its peak when other vegetables have yet to mature, it is an amazingly good thing to eat. The leaves are a rich source of vitamins A, C, E, and K; the complex B vitamins from niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid; the minerals magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, and selenium; as well as protein, dietary fibre, flavonoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach also contains oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of iron by the body. The availability of iron in spinach is increased if it is eaten with foods rich in vitamin C and calcium, so mixing it with citrus juice or dairy makes it more nutritious. Cooking spinach helps to break down the oxalates that inhibit iron and calcium absorption, but eating it raw is also perfectly healthy. Eating raw spinach frequently, though, can lead to the development of kidney stones in some people.
There is some contention about where exactly the Spinach Capital of the World really is. Lexana, Kansas, Crystal City, Texas, and Alma, Arkansas all boast the title, and all three towns host an annual spinach festival. Crystal City may have a longer spinach-growing history in its region, but Alma just seems to want the title more. There’s an oversize bronze statue of Popeye to greet visitors, not to mention the town’s twin water towers – painted to resemble Popeye-styled spinach cans. The Alma Chamber of Commerce likes to call these the World’s Largest Spinach Cans. And in mid-April each year, Alma is transformed by its annual festival. Visitors can enjoy all manner of activities, from the quilt show, pie auction, amusement park, vintage tractor show, craft and food booths, to the 5k Alma Dog Run, the judging of the Spinach Growing Contest, the Spinach Eating Contest, the Spinach Recipe Contest, and something called the Spinach Drop.