Rich in vitamins and minerals, having spinach grow in your garden just makes good nutritional sense. These leaves are easy to grow, love cool weather, and you can actually get two growing seasons out of the plant if you time it right. Find out the best ways to harvest spinach so you can enjoy your hard work.
When to harvest spinach? Spinach grows in cool weather and sometimes it is a race between harvesting and the hot sun. Expect to harvest spinach between April and June, and again between October and November. The harvest season varies greatly between climates as it needs to be cold enough but the ground also needs to be able to be worked properly.
Once the spinach is big enough, which takes about six weeks from planting seeds, pay attention as there can sometimes be a small harvest window. You can either harvest leaves as needed or cut the whole plant off if you need a bunch of spinach or want to freeze it for later.
To harvest individual leaves, take your scissors and cut off the outside leaves. This will allow the inner leaves to grow more, so you can enjoy them in a few days. The smaller the leaves the less bitter they will taste, so keep this in mind when harvesting.
Furthermore, if left too long spinach will bolt and grow flowers, which then renders the spinach far too bitter to be eaten. It’s better to harvest your spinach and freeze it than leave it too long on the plant and be ruined by hot temperatures.
How do you know when your spinach is ready to harvest?
Spinach is a cool-weather crop so you want to find the right balance between being ready and not being too hot. Unfortunately, if not harvested at the right time you could lose your entire spinach crop.
Spinach only takes about six weeks for it to be ready after planting seeds. However, different climates will have you planting, and thus harvesting spinach, at very different times.
For example, in temperate climates, where the ground is more workable, you can plant spinach in February and have it ready in April. On the other hand, in colder climates, you won’t be able to plant seeds until April, meaning your spinach will be ready in June.
Furthermore, many people will try for a second harvest of spinach, in the fall. Again, harvesting times will vary on location, but you can expect to harvest fall spinach between October and November.
One key measurement of when spinach is ready to harvest is its leaf length. Technically, you can harvest smaller, baby spinach leaves that are only 1 to 2 inches long. You can also wait until your spinach leaves are up to 12 inches long.
The length of the spinach leaves will determine the taste. Small, baby spinach leaves will have a sweeter taste while large leaves that are older will be more bitter.
As for color, your spinach should have a lovely, dark green color to it. A yellow color means the spinach is starting to wilt.
When it comes to leaf shape, try to remember what type of spinach you planted. Some varieties, like Winter Bloomsdale, will have a crinkly shape to its leaves, while others, like Giant Nobel, will be flat. Leaf shape, as in whether the edges curl, is dependent on variety and not on readiness.
What happens if you don’t harvest spinach?
Spinach will bolt after a short time. This means the inner part of the spinach plant will continue to grow and flowers will also grow.
Once this happens, your spinach will become too bitter to eat. It’s always best to really pay attention to your spinach and harvest it before it has a chance to flower.
If you leave your spinach too long and it starts to flower, eventually seeds will form. You can try to harvest these seeds and use them the following year for planting. Just be aware that the seeds are incredibly tiny so you want a secure envelope to keep the seeds in.
There are always instances of spinach self-seeding itself. This is when the spinach plant flowers, develops seeds, and then those seeds naturally sow themselves.
However, this is not always dependable. As previously mentioned, spinach seeds are incredibly tiny and it doesn’t take more than a gust of wind to scatter them so that they don’t have the proper soil to grow.
How to harvest spinach?
The beauty of spinach is that you can either harvest it in large batches or harvest it leaf by leaf, as needed.
To harvest smaller leaves once they are ready, start by picking the outside ones first. This will allow more growth and as the inner leaves become bigger, you can then start to pick them.
It’s best to use a pair of sharp kitchen or gardening scissors when harvesting spinach. This way you can ensure a clean break and not create any damage to the leaf.
Locate the stem of your spinach plant and cut the leaf just at the stem. If there is a small part of the stem still attached to the leaf, that’s ok but you don’t want too much of the longer, bitter stem.
After you cut the outer layers, the inner layers will continue to grow and in a few more days you can pick more outer leaves that will then be large enough.
The other method to harvesting spinach is to pick the entire plant. To do this, locate the base of the plant and simply snap it off. If you’re unsure about this, you can also use a sharp pair of scissors.
Cutting the whole plant is great for two reasons. The first is if you need a large amount of spinach, say for a salad for a group of people. Alternatively, you can cut the whole plant if you are ready to freeze a large batch of it.
While it might not always work out, harvesting the entire spinach plant may result in a second growth of the plant.
This second growth won’t be as large as the first and if it is too warm, it won’t grow. However, it’s always worth a shot to prolong your spinach season.
Should you wash spinach after harvesting?
Spinach needs to be washed after harvesting but you should wait until you are ready to eat it first. Spinach will naturally have some dirt on it and this needs to be removed before eating it.
To wash spinach, soak it in water to allow dirt to come off. Then, give it a good rinse. If you think your spinach is particularly dusty, you can always go through the wash and rinse process a second time.
Washing your spinach and then storing it will cause it to rot and become moldy. Instead, if you pick spinach but want to store it, leave it in its natural state until you are ready to eat it.
Can you eat spinach immediately after harvesting?
Yes, spinach is wonderful when freshly picked. There are a few tips to getting the best pick, though. First, if you can, pick spinach in the early morning.
Spinach needs a lot of water and it will be depleted of this water in the warm afternoon the result will be spinach that wilts too quickly.
The other tip is to make sure you properly wash your spinach before you eat it. A good soak and rinse will rid your precious leaves of any leftover dust.
Due to the nature of spinach and how quickly it can turn in warm weather, there will probably come a time when you have more spinach than you know what to do with it.
Spinach will keep in your fridge for an impressive 8 to 10 days. You should place the stems together so it forms a bunch and then wrap the stems in a damp paper towel. Finally, place the whole bundle in a plastic bag that has some air circulation.
It’s best to place your spinach in the vegetable crisper. Don’t put it too far back in the fridge as, depending on the temperature your fridge is set at, the leaves could freeze.
Furthermore, be gentle with spinach leaves as they can bruise quite easily.
For those that want to enjoy their spinach year-round, it is relatively easy to freeze spinach.
The first step is to blanch your spinach in boiling water. This step helps the spinach retain its high nutrient count as well as keep its deep green color.
After it has blanched, you can then let it dry a bit. Finally, place your spinach in a freezer-safe bag, usually around a cup per bag. This way spinach can last up to a year in the freezer.
Full of amazing nutrients, spinach can be used fresh in a salad or as an extra element in a stir-fry. You can even freeze it for year-round use.
When you go to harvest spinach from your garden, pay attention to the size of the spinach leaves and always make sure you harvest it before the weather becomes too hot.