Now that you've taken care of your spinach plants and growing them into beautiful rosettes, you may be thinking about how to harvest spinach. Since spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a cold-weather vegetable related to Swiss chard, you won't be growing it during the heat of summer.
Spinach is a popular crop grown in early spring or late summer because it is hardy and can withstand full sun to partial shade. The Winter Bloomsdale variety is an option if you want to grow an overwintering spinach crop in the greenhouse or cold frame. It's also resistant to downy mildew, which can be a problem in cold climates.
The nice thing about growing spinach plants is that you can harvest it as a microgreen, baby leaf, or ripe leaf and all of this tastes good when eaten raw. Each stage of growth has its own advantages and you can simply plant spinach at intervals to enjoy the different flavors and textures. The outer leaves are used in the harvest of baby spinach or ripe spinach, but we will discuss them in more detail later in this article.
We have a detailed guide on how to grow spinach so you can get healthy, high-yielding plants. But now let's focus on harvesting spinach plants and discuss methods of short and long term storage so you can enjoy this vegetable year round.
When should i harvest spinach?
Let's examine how to harvest spinach. Source: YannGarPhoto
Spinach can be harvested throughout the growing season from an early spring harvest to an autumn harvest. It's a cool season, so it's best grown in the spring and again in the early fall, when the soil temperature is between 45 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
You cannot harvest ripe or ripe spinach leaves. Baby leaves from young plants are great if you want a more tender texture and taste, while ripe leaves are tougher and have a neutral taste similar to that of Swiss chard. You should cut the spinach before it turns into seeds (also known as shot), otherwise the leaves will have a bitter taste and a chewy texture.
The ideal size for harvesting baby spinach is when the plant is at least 6 inches tall and the leaves are 2 to 3 inches long. Begin harvesting the ripe outer leaves of spinach plants when they are 3 to 6 inches long. A few leaves can be even bigger, but as long as the plant hasn't screwed (set seeds) they're fine to eat.
You can tell your spinach plants will shoot when the outside temperature hits 75 degrees Fahrenheit and / or you see a stalk growing in the middle of the foliage. Now is the time to harvest the entire plant because spinach seed formation takes the energy needed for healthy foliage and makes the older leaves bitter.
How to harvest spinach
Harvesting spinach is a simple process, but there are different methods of harvesting spinach depending on how mature the plant is. The first method is to cut the leaf of the spinach plant. This way you only harvest what you need and encourage new growth for the entire plant. Spinach is versatile because it is a fast-growing plant that can handle multiple harvests.
When harvesting the leaves (baby or fully grown), take only the outer larger leaves and no more than ¼ of the whole plant. Ingesting just a small amount will ensure that the growing spinach will continue to survive and thrive. Use sharp kitchen or utility scissors and leave about ½ inch of stems on the plant, which will keep the leaf knot intact and encourage thicker growth. When the stem is tender, you can simply pinch the leaf off the plant.
Another method that is used to harvest a spinach is called clear cutting in the bunch. This is ideal if you want to freeze or dry a lot of leaves at once for later use. Using a sharp, serrated knife, gather all of the spinach leaves on a plant into a bundle and cut the stems ½ inch above the crown. The crown is just above the surface of the soil, where all the stems meet. You can bring in a second harvest in around 10 to 14 days.
The final method is to harvest the spinach plants by removing the entire root system. This is a wonderful method if at the end of the season you want to remove all of the crop and not want regrowth. Take a serrated knife and cut under the crown so that the whole plant protrudes from the soil. The remaining roots will decompose and add nutrients to your soil.
How to store fresh spinach
Young spinach leaves are smaller and sweetish vegetable. Source: Rosmarie Voegtli
Now that you've harvested your spinach plants, you need to know the best way to store the fresh spinach leaves. Let's look at two different methods: dry cold storage and frozen storage. Either way, you should remove any withered, slimy, or discolored leaves from the batch as these have the potential to spoil the rest.
Cleanse the spinach by rinsing it with cold water and then use a salad spinner to remove the excess water. Place the leaves on a paper towel and pat them dry. Now you can move on to the next step of either method.
Dry refrigeration is by far the most popular because it's simple and it's always nice to have fresh spinach on hand. You don't want your spinach to get wet keeping it in the refrigerator as this will cause the leaves to become slimy. Wrap your spinach in a dry paper towel, then place it in a plastic bag. Try to remove any excess air before putting it in the refrigerator. This should take up to 10 days.
You could also wait to wash your spinach until you're ready to use it to reduce the risk of moisture damage. Alternatively, you can put the wrapped leaves in a plastic container to increase the shelf life to 12-14 days.
To keep your spinach in the freezer, you can quickly rinse it to remove dirt and bugs, but you don't need to dry the spinach as it needs to be blanched in boiling water or steamed for two minutes. After cooking, place the spinach in ice water for another two minutes to stop the cooking process.
After cooling, remove the excess water with a salad spinner and pat dry with a towel. Place desired portions in freezer bags and remove excess air. The frozen spinach can be kept in the freezer for up to a year.
Dry the spinach
The next option is to dehydrate your spinach. For all three drying methods, place the spinach leaves in a single layer with space between them to allow adequate air circulation. Once it's clean and dry (follow the same steps outlined above), place the spinach in your dehydrator at 125 ° F for 4 to 8 hours, or until it's crispy and brittle.
The oven can also be used to dehydrate the spinach. Preheat your oven to 125 degrees and place the spinach on a baking sheet; then bake for 2 to 3 hours. Air drying is another drying option when you have plenty of space and extra time. Place clean and dry spinach leaves on a drying rack in a warm place with good air circulation. It takes 2 to 3 weeks for the spinach to dry sufficiently.
Store dried spinach in an airtight container such as mason jars or plastic containers in a dark place for up to a year. If you really want to save space and cut extra costs, consider freeze drying your spinach. It can be kept for up to 25 years!
frequently asked Questions
Ripe spinach leaves are larger and slightly more bitter. Source: paix120
Q: Does spinach grow back after being cut?
A: Yes, as long as you don't cut or remove the crown (aka the growth point) too deeply. It is in the crown that the growing spinach will develop, and you will need to retain at least ½ to 2 inches of the crown after harvesting a few leaves.
Q: How do you know spinach is ready to pick?
A: When the spinach plants are in the shape of a rosette and have at least 6 leaves, you can start harvesting. However, it is best to wait for the plants to mature a little longer so that the leaves become 3 to 6 inches long.
Q: How often can spinach be harvested?
A: Since this is a cool weather vegetable, you can only get 3 to 4 cuttings from your spinach plants before the temperature reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit and it turns into seeds. But don't be afraid to replant spinach in early fall so you can harvest by winter.
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