Spinach is an easy plant to harvest and is particularly fast at maturing when planted from seed. There are several ways to harvest spinach depending on how much you want to use, whether you are storing spinach, and which leaves you prefer.
However, as an annual plant, spinach only lasts one growing season and needs to be harvested before the end of autumn. Care is needed in maintaining a spinach plant for additional harvests in a season as it can easily bolt and become sour.
Learn how to maintain and harvest spinach in this post so that you harvest the tastiest leaves and, can gain several harvests per plant before the end of the season.
When is the Best Time to Harvest Spinach?
Depending upon the variety of spinach you are growing, your plant can take between 37-45 days to mature. Most varieties are fully mature within 6 weeks of planting spinach seeds.
However, spinach does not grow well in heat. So for the best-tasting leaves, ensure to grow your spinach in a cool area to prevent bolting.
You can plant spinach seeds in either spring, early summer, or winter. Choosing which time to plant is key to when your spinach will be ready to harvest.
By planting in winter and ensuring to protect your seeds during cold frosts, you will be able to harvest spinach as early as spring.
Whereas planting spinach in spring, leads to your first spinach harvest during the summer.
And finally, if you choose to plant your spinach seeds in the early summer months, you will be able to harvest spinach in Autumn.
The good news is, spinach can be harvested before it is fully mature. As soon as there is a rosette in the center with 5 or 6 leaves, you can begin picking leaves for your salads, curries, and pasta dishes.
As your plant grows, you can select whether to pick the larger or smaller leaves depending upon your taste preferences. To ensure your spinach plant continues to grow new leaves, only harvest up to 30% of the leaves at any given time.
As spinach is an annual plant, you might want to consider planting seeds at different times to enable a larger quantity of spinach to be harvested, as well as multiple harvests from Spring to Autumn.
How to Harvest Spinach?
Harvesting spinach is incredibly easy and simple to do. You can either harvest individual leaves or cut the whole plant from the base.
First, consider how much spinach you require and the state of your plant.
If you only need a small amount of spinach, it is best to cut individual leaves. For sweeter leaves, focus on harvesting the smaller leaves first. You can do this with a clean, sharp knife or with your fingertips. Simply pinch or cut each leaf at the base of its stem as and when you need them.
For a larger harvest, you can cut a bunch of leaves at a time. Simply grab a handful of leaves as required and cut the base of the stems, ensuring to avoid the crown. This will encourage your spinach to re-sprout leading to a further harvest in a few weeks.
Alternatively, you may consider harvesting the whole spinach plant at the end of the season. As spinach is an annual plant, it will not continue to grow in winter and most varieties will die before the following Spring. Spinach plants are also likely to bolt or flower when they become too warm, and this may be an option to save as many spinach leaves as possible before they turn bitter.
If you come across any yellow or discolored leaves, these need removing as they have wilted and will be bitter in taste.
How To Store Spinach
Once you have harvested your spinach leaves, they will need a thorough cleaning before consuming or storing them.
Spinach requires a couple of washes first and then wrap with a damp kitchen towel. If eating fresh, you can store spinach leaves in your refrigerator for 10-14 days.
If however, you have a larger quantity of spinach at the end of the season that cannot be used immediately, you can dry or freeze your spinach.
To dry spinach, you can wash and hang the leaves in bunches upside down. They will feel crumbly to the touch and can then be stored in an air-tight container. You can also dry them in the oven at the lowest temperature for around 3 hours.
Alternatively, frozen spinach tastes just as good as fresh spinach and is extremely easy to cook with. You can prepare and freeze your spinach in two ways:
- Wash your spinach as you would if eating it fresh. Then you can place a handful of spinach into zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer.
- Alternatively, if you will be storing spinach for a long time, consider blanching the leaves before freezing them. To do this, simply place them in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove them, and place them immediately in cold water to stop your leaves from cooking. Remove them from the water and press them in the kitchen roll to remove any excess water. The spinach can then be placed into the freezer in freezer bags. Frozen spinach that has been blanched can be stored for up to 14 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you harvest spinach so it keeps growing?
Make sure to only harvest up to 30% of the plant at any time. This will allow your spinach to recover and focus on producing more leaves for you to harvest again in a few weeks.
How do you know when spinach is ready to pick?
Healthy spinach leaves will be deep green and firm. These can begin being picked when the base of your spinach plant has fully formed with 5-6 leaves in the center. If you begin harvesting early on, remember to only harvest a handful of leaves at a time to help encourage new growth.
For more support on growing and harvesting leafy greens at home, take a look at these posts: