Does Spinach Go Bad?

Buying healthy foods like spinach is easy, but making sure actually to eat them is often surprisingly difficult. That’s why that bag of spinach you were supposed to eat last week is still in the fridge. It’s a couple of days past its date, and you’re wondering if it’s bad already.

All veggies go bad sooner or later, and spinach is no exception. In fact, spinach is highly perishable, and it loses some of its nutrients even faster (more on that later), so it’s best to eat it fresh. But if yours sits in storage for quite some time already, you need to know how to tell if it’s spoiled.

In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, and spoilage of spinach. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.

How To Store Spinach

The best short description of storage practices comes from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (TN), and it goes like this:

Store spinach unwashed in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator.

That pretty much says it all. The plastic bag helps keep away ethylene that might be produced by other fruits and veggies and therefore help the spinach retain quality for longer.

Keeping it unwashed is best not because washing somehow makes spinach go bad faster, but because it’s difficult to completely dry out the greens afterward. Any leftover water drops would make the spinach go slimy and spoil much faster. In short, pre-washed spinach is perfectly fine, but if you’re buying it fresh, wash it right before using.

Once you’ve cooked the spinach, keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. Pretty much the same you do with all other cooked foods.

Green veggies salad
(credit: Heather Barnes)

How Long Does Spinach Last

Spinach, like kale, doesn’t last that long, and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to give an exact period.

If we’re talking about fresh spinach you’re buying in the farmer’s market, it can maintain quality for even up to two weeks (UC). When it comes to a pre-packaged one you buy in the supermarket, it usually comes with a date on the label, and it’s a pretty good estimate of how long the spinach will keep peak quality. You can usually get an extra 3 to 5 days, but that’s about it. Of course, these are best-case scenarios, and often spinach shows signs of decay earlier.

If you’re eating spinach mainly for its nutrients, make sure you eat it as fresh as possible. That’s because, according to Penn State University, the nutrient profile of spinach degrades over time quite quickly (PSU):

That seven-day-old bag of spinach in your refrigerator may not make you as strong as your grandma told you, because, according to Penn State food scientists, spinach stored for a long time loses much of its nutrient content.

When it comes to cooked spinach, it keeps for around 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

Fridge
Spinach (fresh)Up to two weeks or 2 – 5 days past its date
Spinach (cooked)3 to 5 days

Please note the period above is only a rough estimate.

Preparing spinach
(credit: chiara conti)
Tip

If your spinach regularly goes bad because you forget about it or can’t be bothered with using it, switch to buying frozen spinach. You can use it whenever you want and you don’t have to worry about it going bad.

How To Tell If Spinach Is Bad?

Old or poorly stored spinach can show several signs of decay. Some of them mean it’s gone and you should throw it out, while others not necessarily so.

If your spinach is moldy or slimy, consider it done for and discard it. I believe this isn’t anything new to you, but it’s worth reiterating nonetheless. If it looks plain bad, don’t eat it.

Yellowing and wilting leaves are another sign of old spinach. Should you discard it, though? It’s up to you. If only a handful of leaves are yellowish or begin to wilt, I usually use it anyway. But if the whole thing is yellow, I get rid of it. The bottom line is that’s a matter of personal preference. And as usual, if you’re not quite sure if it’s still okay to eat it, discard it.

Tip

If you’re considering eating spinach that’s starting to wilt and turn yellow, it’s best to use it in a cooked dish. The taste of the green will be acceptable at best, so using it in a dish will help to cover that up.

Sources