Did you know that when you harvest spinach, it grows back for continuous harvests? All you need to do is pick the right leaves at the right time and the plants will keep sending up new foliage for more harvests every few days.
Harvesting spinach is super easy and there are a few different ways to do it, depending on your particular situation.
To help you make the most out of your plants, so you can prepare as many spinach recipes as possible, we’ve compiled a detailed guide on harvesting and storing fresh spinach that should teach you everything you need to know on the subject.
Let’s dive right in!
Spinach is a dark, leafy green vegetable that’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It can be eaten raw or cooked in numerous different ways. Its taste depends mostly on how old the leaves are when harvested, how fresh they are and what method of preparation is used. When served raw, its taste is sweet, grassy and herb-like, in comparison to its slightly acidic and bitter taste when cooked.
Spinach is a cold season crop and grows best in spring and fall. It can be grown outdoors and indoors as well, provided that you have enough space to accommodate it.
If you primarily use it in your daily shakes and smoothies, a small pot of spinach should provide you with a steady supply to cover your daily needs. However, if you’re a big fan of spinach and love using it in your dishes and salads, consider planting it in larger quantities in your outdoor garden.
How to Harvest Spinach
There are several different ways to harvest spinach. Let’s see what those are.
- By the Leaf
The first and simplest method to harvest spinach is by the leaf.
All you need is a pair of scissors and a place to store the leaves you pick up.
Depending on your needs, you can either choose to harvest baby leaves, or larger, mature leaves. You can pick and choose which leaves to take or you can simply take the outer/oldest leaves of each plant working around the center. Just find the leaves that you want to harvest, hold each leaf with one hand and cut the stem with the other one. It’s that simple.
Make sure to only harvest about 1/3 of each plant. Once you’ve harvested your spinach, all you need to do is water it and wait patiently for the next harvest. Spinach leaves will regrow in just a matter of days.
This is a great method of harvesting spinach if you want the plant to keep growing and produce new leaves, or if you just need a few leaves for a smoothie or a small dish.
- By the Bunch
Harvesting spinach by the bunch or clear cutting as it’s also called is a method of harvesting spinach in bulk. Simply gather up as much leaves from one plant that you can in one hand and use a serrated knife to cut through the stems, making sure you cut above the crown (where all the stems meet).
When you use this method, you can expect the plant to re-grow new leaves around 2 weeks after harvesting, so you can repeat the same process again.
- By the Plant
Another method of harvesting spinach is by the plant. This method works best when you want to clear out your garden bed to plant something else, when you don’t need the re-growth or before the plant starts to flower.
If the new leaves that re-grow start to look narrow, pointy, and a thick center stem with flower buds comes up, the spinach is starting to "bolt" or set seed. At this point you can start harvesting all spinach plants one by one. Use a knife to cut the plants below the crown or pull them out by hand.
When to Harvest Spinach
Generally speaking, when spinach plants have multiple leaves and are 4-6" tall, they can be picked. However, you can harvest spinach at any time, depending on whether you want baby spinach or mature leaves.
Harvest spinach leaves in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. The heat will stress the plants and your freshly cut leaves will be wilted.
Make sure you harvest all of your spinach before the weather gets too warm (around 75°F or more), because once the weather gets hot, the spinach will start bolting or setting seeds, which will change the flavor of the leaves, since it will be using up all of its energy to flower, set seed and reproduce.
As we mentioned before, once you see a stem growing upwards amongst the rest of the leaves that means that the plant has diverted its energy from leaf production to reproduction and its time to harvest the whole crop before the leaves become too bitter and tough.
How to Store Fresh Spinach
If you’ve harvested too much spinach or you’ve decided to pull out all your spinach from your garden and now you need to store it for later use, here’s what you’ll need to do to make sure it stays fresh for a longer period of time.
Wrap the freshly cut and washed leaves loosely in damp kitchen towels and place them in a sealed plastic or glass container. Place the container in the refrigerator. Use the leaves within a week of harvesting, or until they start to wilt and loose color.
How to Dry Fresh Spinach
If you want to store your spinach for longer than a few days to a week, one way to achieve that is to dehydrate the leaves.
There are several methods of drying fresh spinach that you can use.
One way to go is to use a food dehydrator that helps remove the moisture from the plant.
If you don’t have a food dehydrator, you can use your oven or hang dry the leaves. If you decide to use the oven, simply lay the washed leaves (they can also be roughly chopped) on a tray, set the oven on the lowest temperature setting and leave the tray in for 2-3 hours or until the leaves are dry and brittle.
Hang drying is another method you can use.
This method is quite simple. All you need to do is take a few spinach leaves, tie them up together using a string and hand them upside down in a well-ventilated area. Once they’re dry and crumbling, store them in an air-tight bag or container.
How to Freeze Fresh Spinach
Frozen veggies are huge time-savers and quite useful to have, especially when those veggies are off-season or hard to find.
If your garden is producing more than you can eat, simply throw the extra spinach leaves in the freezer for later use.
If you’re planning on using the spinach in the next few weeks, you can simply wash the leaves, put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer.
If long-term storage is what you’re looking for, a better and more efficient way to store the leaves is to blanch and freeze them.
Here’s how this works.
Blanch the leaves in boiling water for up 30 seconds, then submerge the leaves in cold water for up to a minute to stop the cooking process, press them down with a spoon to drain the water, pack them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer.
As you can see, harvesting and storing spinach is pretty simple! Whichever harvest method you decide to use, just remember to pick no more than 1/3 of the plant so it can re-grow new leaves and you can have multiple harvests in one season.
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