When and How to Harvest Spinach Plants
You can harvest spinach at just about any stage in its growth cycle up to the time it begins to bolt and produce flowers and seeds. But plan on completing the harvest of your plants only five to seven weeks after the seeds germinate, because spinach plants grow especially fast and most varieties need to be picked before 55 days of growth.
Knowing When to Harvest Spinach
Start by looking at the days-to-maturity date on the seed package for the spinach variety you are growing. This information provides a reliable guide for knowing when to pick spinach, or any other vegetable crop.
For spinach, the days-to-maturity information tells you the approximate date when your spinach will be fully mature, and after that, your plants are likely to begin bolting.
After spinach bolts, the leaves become elongated, more fibrous, and develop bitter and off-flavors, making them unappetizing and unpalatable. However, you can harvest spinach at almost every stage of growth until it bolts.
- As your seedlings emerge, thin them out when they reach approximately 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7cm) in height, leaving one plant to continue growing every 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20cm) apart in the rows. You can eat the baby plants you pull-up, adding them to salads or sandwiches.
- When spinach plants have developed a small rosette of about 6 to 8 leaves, trim a leaf or two from each plant to eat as baby spinach.
- As the plants continue growing, harvest small amounts of individual leaves from the outside of the bunch for eating, leaving the central core to continue growing and producing more leaves.
- When your plants are close to the full days-to-maturity indicated on the seed package, harvest the whole plant by cutting it at the base or pulling it up by the roots.
When harvesting the whole plant, trim off the roots and discard them. Eat thinned seedlings right away, and store spinach leaves in the refrigerator for up to one week, washing them just before using them.
How to Harvest Spinach
Pick spinach leaves from growing plants by cutting them with a pair of scissors or trimming them off with a sharp knife. You can also pinch the leaves off with your fingers. Cut the leaves off along with their stems, cutting the leaf stem close to the base of the plant.
Put your harvested spinach plants or leaves in a plastic bag and refrigerate them without washing them first, then put them in a large bowl of water and rinse them thoroughly just before using them, because spinach leaves often hold onto grit and dirt which splashes onto the leaves during rain and watering.