When you grow spinach in your garden for fresh salads, you can learn both when and when to harvest spinach and store it and can help ensure that you extend your crop and enjoy more from the plant.
Harvest spinach when the leaves are tender enough to eat. Spinach can be harvested 40 to 65 days after sowing.
Spinach is a super hardy green leafy vegetable and is a popular crop that can be grown very early in the spring, fall, and even winter in some areas.
Spinach has similar growing conditions and requirements to lettuce but is much more nutritious and capable of being eaten raw or cooked.
It is higher in iron, calcium, and vitamins than most cultivated vegetables and is one of the best sources of vitamins A, B, and C.
The key to harvesting spinach leaves is to pick the leaves from the outside of the plant and make the center grow. This keeps the plants healthy so they can continue to produce more leaves.
If you want baby spinach leaves, harvest them when they are about 2 inches (5 cm) long.
Generally, spinach can be eaten raw or gently sautéed because it is so tender. If you plan to cook spinach, or can boil or freeze it, wait until the leaves get 4 inches (10 cm) long or longer for better yields.
Some spinach leaves will reach 6 inches (15 cm) long or longer, depending on the variety.
When harvesting spinach, you can usually pinch the leaves off the stems with your fingernails. You can also use kitchen shears or scissors to harvest the leaves.
Just be sure to get the entire leaf and a little bit of the stem. If you break a leaf without a stem, it will quickly go bad.
In spring, when the days get longer and the weather warms up, the plants will start to wilt. Anchoring is when they start to send out seed stalks and eventually flower.
If you allow this to happen, the leaves will become bitter and almost inedible. When mature plants grow taller in a short period of time, this indicates that seed stems are coming. At this point, pull up the entire plant and harvest all the leaves.
In the fall, mature spinach plants will hold frost well. When the temperature looks like they will drop below 30°F (-1.1°C) at night, we move on, pull up the plants, and harvest all the leaves that are available.
WHEN TO HARVEST SPINACH
Harvest spinach as close to mealtime as possible for the best flavor.
Spinach grows best at temperatures of 60°F-65°F (15°-18°C)-usually in the spring or fall.
When temperatures reach 70°F (21°C) or higher, the plant usually blooms (flowering) and stops producing. If temperatures rise to 80°F (26.6°C), start picking outer leaves immediately; this will briefly delay bolting. Very warm temperatures make spinach bitter.
Grow New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia Dragonoid’s) where temperatures are consistently above 80°F (26.6°C); it looks and tastes like spinach, but will flourish in warmer temperatures.
In mild winter areas, spinach is usually produced throughout the winter. During cold winters, spinach is grown under plastic tunnels or in cold frames.
In a cold frame, spinach can be covered with straw or hay to prevent it from freezing. Winterizing spinach will give you an early spring harvest.
HOW TO HARVEST SPINACH
Cut spinach with garden shears, piece by piece – cutting off the outer leaves first to allow the inner leaves to grow – or cut 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil off the entire plant.
Either way, the plant will continue to produce new leaves as long as the temperature is cool. Pay attention to the plant. Harvest the leaves when they reach the desired size.
Do not wait too long to harvest or for larger leaves; they will develop a bitter taste soon after maturity.
You can harvest the entire plant at once and cut it off at the base, or you can remove a layer of leaves from the plant at a time, thus allowing more time for the inner layer to develop.
HOW TO STORE SPINACH
Soil often sticks to the ruffled leaves of spinach. To clean the leaves, fill the sink with warm water and clean the leaves, then lift them and place them in a colander to drain.
If soil is still present, repeat this process. Air dry or pat with a cloth or paper towel to dry before storing.
Store spinach at 32°F-40°F (0°C-5°C) and 95% relative humidity, keeping it cool and moist.
Place spinach in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator. Spinach will remain in the refrigerator for approximately 10 days.
Spinach that is too cold or stored too long will develop brown spots on the midrib and the leaves will wilt.
For long-term storage, we prefer to freeze spinach. Wash the leaves to remove any dirt or grit.
Then soak them in boiling water for 1 minute to turn them white. Then remove them and place them in an ice-water bath to cool.
This will help them retain their bright green color. Once the spinach leaves have cooled, drain them briefly on paper towels.
Then gather a bunch of leaves together to form a ball-we like baseball-sized leaves. Squeeze the ball to wring out as much water as possible.
Then, wrap the spinach balls in plastic wrap and store them in an airtight bag in the refrigerator.
You can place several spinach balls in a 1-gallon size bag. The spinach will keep in the refrigerator for up to a year.
Q: How do you keep your spinach growing? How do you make spinach plants produce leaves?
A: Harvesting spinach correctly can greatly improve the chances of re-harvesting it.
Spinach regenerates leaves from its growing point, which is the plant’s crown stem, and the stem is at the root of that crown stem very close to the soil surface.
To harvest, use scissors or garden shears to cut the spinach leaves back to within 2 inches (5 cm) of the ground.
Be careful not to cut into the growing point or you may damage the plant to prevent it from regrowing.
The leaves should then regrow within four weeks of the first cut for a second harvest.
If left unseeded, the plant may produce two or more regeneration cycles, which will allow you to continue harvesting for a longer period of time.
TO THE END
Spinach can be harvested a few leaves at a time, or all at once, depending on your needs and preferences.
If you only need a few leaves, use scissors or gardening shears to cut the leaves off at the stem, harvesting the older outer leaves first and then gradually moving toward the center of the plant as the inner leaves begin to mature.
If you wish to harvest all the leaves at the same time, simply cut the entire plant from the base, being careful not to cut into the growing points so the plant can grow.
Either harvesting method will promote growth as long as the growing points are not damaged during harvest.