Spinach is a popular crop that can be planted in fall and early spring. In fact, in some areas, it can be planted in winter as well. It is a green leafy vegetable that can be enjoyed fresh and cooked.
Spinach has similar growing conditions as lettuce, but it is more versatile in varieties as well as nutrition. It is one of the best sources of vitamin A, B, and C. Spinach is higher in iron and calcium.
Since it is a fast-growing crop, you can get multiple crops in the growing season in most areas. But when is the right time to harvest spinach? The harvest time is important to get the best leaves. As a matter of fact, when to harvest spinach depends on whether you want full grown or baby leaves. Bear in mind that spinach tends to bolt and gets bitter when temperatures soar.
When is the right time to pick spinach?
Spinach is a great source of vitamins and iron. If you want to get the best-tasting leaves, then it is highly important to pick spinach at the right time. When you harvest spinach, it grows back for continuous harvest. If you pick the right leaves at the right time, the plant will keep sending up the new foliage.
Bear in mind that spinach is a cool-season crop, so its leaves bolt when the temperatures are warm, and the sun is high. If you want baby leaves, then harvest them when they are around two inches long. Baby spinach leaves have a sweeter flavor. They are great to eat raw or sauteed gently as they have more tender texture. If you plan to cook it, then pick the leaves when they are around 4 inches long or more.
There are some spinach varieties that have 6 inches long leaves. You should remove the spinach leaves before they get yellow.
How to harvest spinach?
Now you know when it is the right time to pick spinach leaves. It is highly important to know the right way to harvest spinach for continuous harvest. When harvesting spinach, you can pinch off the leaves at the stem using your fingernail, or you can simply use kitchen scissors to cut the leaves at the stem.
Make sure you get the whole leaf and a little bit of the stem. Be careful while picking the leaves as it may get bad quickly if you break the leaf without the stem.
When it comes to harvesting spinach, you need to decide whether you need the entire plant or a few leaves only. Another way to harvest spinach is that you start picking the older outer leaves first and then gradually move to the center of the plant. You can also cut the whole plant off the base. Just remember that harvesting spinach correctly increases the chances of the plant growing back for multiple harvests.
In the spring, when the weather becomes warmer, the spinach plant will start to bolt. The plant will start to send up a seed stalk. Do not let the plant flower as it will make the leaves taste bitter. As a result, the leaves will become virtually inedible.
You should pull off the plant and harvest all the leaves if the mature plant has grown taller in a short period. Remember, it is the sign that seed stalk is coming.
If you do not want to cook spinach immediately after harvesting, then store the unwashed leaves in a perforated bag in the refrigerator. These leaves will last up to two weeks or more if they stay dry.
If you want to store them for a longer period, then wash the leaves to remove dirt. Blanch the leaves by plunging them into boiling water for one minute. Now take them out and put them in the ice water to cool off. When they are cold, drain them on paper towels. Now take a bunch of leaves and from them to a ball. Squeeze it to wring water. Then wrap it in the plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight bag.