How to know if spinach is spoiled

We’ll take a look at how to determine if spinach is spoiled in this brief article. We’ll also touch on the dangers of spoiled spinach if consumed, as well as explain ways to properly store spinach.

How to know if spinach is spoiled?

The easiest way to identify if your spinach has gone bad is to look at it. If it has  slimy, dull leaves, it might be time to throw it out (1). Fresh spinach has hardy green leaves with firm stems and a dry texture (2).

Here are some ways to tell if your spinach is fit for consumption or not (1,2).

  • Fresh spinach is bright green in color. If the leaves appear dark green, yellowish, or blackish, the product has gone bad. Dark spots are another sign to look out for.
  • When fresh, your spinach should have relatively dry textured leaves with firm stems and crisp edges. If the leaves are wilted and/or slimy, it is time to throw them away. .
  • Fresh spinach has a very fresh and light, mild “leafy” scent. As it rots, the smell grows stronger and more pungent. If it smells ammonia-like or otherwise unpleasant, it is past its expiration date.
  • If your spinach has mold on it, it is not fit for consumption. Mold usually appears as blue or black spots on spinach and is hazardous for your health if consumed.
  • If buying packaged spinach, check the packaging for a “best by” or “use before” date, as it will be a good indicator of freshness provided the packaging isn’t damaged.

If you have spinach that is not very fresh or wilting, it is best to use it in a cooked dish. Cooking helps eliminate any microorganisms (3).

What are the consequences of consuming spoiled spinach?

Spoiled spinach can cause food poisoning by different pathogenic microorganisms such as Escherichia coli if consumed.  Symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (3).

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and last a few hours to several days (3).

Always be sure to wash your spinach and inspect it for spoilage before you use it to help avoid problems with your health.

What to do if you have consumed spoiled spinach?

If you have consumed spoiled spinach and have diarrhea or vomiting, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (4).

See a medical professional urgently if you have any serious symptoms (4):

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
  • High fever (temperature over 102°F)
  • Vomiting so often that you cannot keep fluids down.
  • Signs of dehydration, such as poor urination, dry mouth, and throat, or dizziness when you stand up.

Also, consult your doctor if you are pregnant and have fever and other flu-like symptoms. Some mild infections can cause problems during pregnancy (4).

How to properly store spinach?

Whether fresh or cooked, spinach does not have a very long shelf life and will go bad quickly. However, there are ways to improve its shelf life. Here are some of them:

Refrigeration

When refrigerated, spinach can last for up to a week when properly handled (2).

Wrap the spinach in a clean paper towel or place it in a plastic bag with a few holes in it for air circulation.

Store wrapped spinach in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, which is designed to maintain a slightly higher humidity level, keeping spinach fresh longer.

Avoid storing spinach with other fruits or vegetables that produce ethylene gas, which can cause spinach to wilt quickly (2). 

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It helps to keep the spinach unwashed until right before you need to use it since washing lets unnecessary moisture into the leaves.Freezing

 To freeze spinach, wash it beforehand and pick out all the yellowing or wilting leaves. Afterward, dry it out thoroughly with kitchen towels or a salad spinner if you have one. 

Finish by placing in freezer bags and vacuum sealing them to force as much air out as possible. Freezing can extend the shelf life of spinach by up to a year if you do it properly and under hygienic conditions (5).

Bear in mind, however, that frozen spinach will only last a day or two once thawed, and will not last as long as it would have, had it not been thawed, even if re-frozen.

And finally, it is worth noting that spinach does lose some of its nutritional content if it is stored for long periods of time (2), so it is best to buy fresh produce in small batches according to your consumption, especially if you’re using spinach mainly for its nutritional content.

Conclusion

We’ve taken a look at how to determine if spinach is spoiled in this brief article. We’ve also touched on the dangers of spoiled spinach if consumed, as well as explain ways to properly store spinach.

References

  1. What are the signs of food spoilage? USDA 2023.
  2. The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. USDA, 2016.
  3. Food safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  4. Food Safety Education Month: Preventing Cross-Contamination. USDA, 2022.
  5. Food labeling and product dating. USDA

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