A stray decimal point led to Popeye’s spinach fetish. He’d have gotten more iron from eggs, pork, or even brown sugar.
The original study of spinach’s iron content had been conducted in the 1890s, long before computerized data, and the results were handwritten. However, according to T.J. Hamblin in the December 1981 British Medical Journal, German chemists reinvestigated this “miracle vegetable” in the 1930s. What did they find? The original researchers had misplaced a decimal point, accidentally multiplying the iron content in spinach tenfold.
Well, blow me down.
Thanks in no small part to Popeye, spinach consumption increased 33 percent from 1931 to 1936. Today, three U.S. cities have monuments honoring the sailor for his endorsement of the leafy green:
- Chester, Illinois, hometown of Popeye creator E. C. “Elzie” Segar has a statue of the character in Segar Memorial Park.
- Alma, Arkansas, is the headquarters of the Popeye Spinach Company, and they’ve placed an eight-foot-tall fiberglass Popeye in front of their Chamber of Commerce building.
- Crystal City, Texas, which calls itself the “World Spinach Capital,” has a painted Popeye statue behind their police station.