Spinach's health giving properties are almost mythical: look at Popeye, given Herculean strength from eating a tin of spinach. In fact, its iron content, although respectable, is nothing remarkable. The levels of oxalic acid also present see to that, preventing absorption of either spinach's iron or its calcium. If you want to give someone a tonic, a bowl of parsley soup will have a far better ferric content per spoonful.
So, eat spinach because it is delicious, not because it will make you superhuman. And don't eat tinned spinach at all: that's the foul tasting khaki sludge which has alienated generations of children. That and being told that spinach is good for you, which of course makes it anathema.
Using nutmeg to season spinach goes back to the days when spinach was used to make sweet dishes: sweet spinach tart is still eaten in Provence on Christmas Eve.
Spinach does best in cool climates: the unrelated New Zealand spinach, with its pointy leaves and mild flavour, copes better with hot weather.
Look out for pousse: very tiny baby leaf spinach which is popular with restaurant chefs.
Choosing and Cooking Spinach
There are, broadly, two kinds of spinach, mature leaves, which are the default spinach, and baby leaf. The large fresh leaves of mature spinach have enough body to withstand heat, so are the ones for cooking. Baby leaf spinach makes robust salads, good with punchy flavours like bacon or blue cheese, but don't cook it: the water content is too high, and it collapses to mush. Either kind should be vividly green, without a trace of yellow,
and so dry and bouncy that it seems to squeak like rubber sheeting as the greengrocer thrusts it into a carrier bag. Supermarkets sell bags of spinach, often ready washed, but check it carefully, since the leaves are prone to dark slimy patches, particularly where the leaves have broken. You might just get away with this if you are cooking the spinach, but it's a definite no-no for salads.
To wash spinach, fill the sink with cold water and plunge the spinach in. Woosh it around a bit, then scoop the leaves out, and empty the sink, washing away the grit which has accumulated in the bottom. Repeat this until no more grit is left in the water when you lift the spinach out. Get rid of any yellowing or ropey looking leaves, and rip out the fatter stems of the older ones: the narrow stems of young spinach can be left, although you'll need to cut off any withered ends.
Now you can either cook your spinach the English or the Continental way. The English way is to thrust the still damp (not wet) leaves into a hot pan, wherein you have melted a knob of butter. Stir the leaves around for a few seconds, then cover tightly and allow to wilt in their own steam: a matter of a couple of minutes. Although you have added no water, the spinach will have given up a lot of liquid, and needs to be drained thoroughly before seasoning and serving. If you are using the spinach as a base for a dish, say eggs florentine (poached eggs on a bed of spinach, covered with cheese sauce and browned under the grill) then be especially scrupulous, pressing every scrap of liquid out in a sieve. The spinach will give up yet more liquid and make the final dish watery otherwise.
On the Continent cooks prefer to blanch their spinach in a big pan of boiling water, for three to eight minutes depending on the age of the leaves. They are then plunged into plenty of cold - iced, ideally — water, to keep them green, before being reheated with lots of seasoning and cream or butter. This is a better method than the English for coarser leaves which might carry a trace of bitterness, and the only way of preparing leaves for lining a terrine (sans the final reheating, of course). For most purposes I stick to the first method, though, since it preserves the flavour and texture better.