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Bye Bye Spinach

spinachbolted

Let me offer a little piece of advice: if your spinach looks like this, don’t eat it! Spinach likes its days short, its soil moist, and its temperatures cool. So, at this time of year when our days are long, and warm, and dry, spinach tends to go to seed, or bolt as the process is sometimes called. This is bad news for you because bolted spinach tastes very bitter and develops a tough, unpleasant texture. Trust me on this. I took a little nibble of my bolted spinach this morning, and let’s just say I did not pick more leaves for breakfast.

spinachbolted_closeup

The development of pointy, arrow shaped leaves is the first sign that your spinach will soon bolt. As soon as you see the merest hint of a pointy leaf, harvest all your spinach before it has a chance to turn bitter on you. If, like me, you weren’t paying attention and your spinach shot skyward before you noticed, it’s best to just pull the plants and throw them on your compost pile because the leaves are inedible at this point.

I’m going to take out my bolted spinach today and sow dino kale in its place. Beets or Swiss chard would be a good bet, too, becuase they grow quickly and stay tender and tasty even in the heat.

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13 Responses to “Bye Bye Spinach”

  1. 1
    connie Says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m growing spinach for the first time this year (along with pretty much everything…I’m a total n00b to gardening) and I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye on it now!

  2. 2
    Marna Says:

    Yup, mine bolted this week so I pulled it all up and tossed it to the hens. They loved it!

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Says:

    I didn’t get a chance to plant spinach this year, but thanks for the tip! It got me thinking, though, as I was looking at your photos…. what does the rest of your garden look like this time of year? I live North of SF and I’m always curious to see how far along veggies are in other parts of the country.

  4. 4
    Lynne Says:

    So, that’s what growing in my bed! I sure didn’t recognize the plant as spinach anymore. Thank you!!

  5. 5
    courtney Says:

    my spinach only grew leggy stems and super tiny leaves this year, it’s been 50-65 on average in chicago, and pretty overcast….what happened?

  6. 6
    Willi Says:

    Connie–Congrats on your first garden. When your spinach is done, try beets. They are a great beginner crop because you can harvest them at any time and eat the greens.

    Marna–Good idea! I should have fed my bolted spinach to my girls. Next time…

    Elizabeth–I just took some pics of my garden this morning. I’ll post them soon. I’ve been having a big problem with birds eating everything! So my garden isn’t quite as lush as I had hoped.

    Lynne–Glad I could help!

    Courtney–It sounds like your spinach may not have gotten enough sun. It needs at least 6 hours of bright, direct sun each day to thrive.

  7. 7
    Amanda G Says:

    Hey Willi! That’s a shame you lost all that spinach :-\ I hope you managed to get plenty of good meals out of it before it bolted. Your post served as a good warning though, and we went right out and harvested all of ours because we were starting to get pointy leaves. After picking off all the leaves, we ended up with three 9-oz bags which we “blanched” real quick in the microwave and then stuck in the freezer. Have you ever preserved spinach, and if so, how do you do it? I also know you’re a big fan of kale, and we’ve got a bunch that’s getting ready to be harvested. Do you know if kale is any good after it’s been frozen?

  8. 8
    Willi Says:

    Amanda–I did get quite a harvest before the spinach bolted, but I was definitely bummed that it went to seed so quickly. It seemed fine one day and then it was gone the next. I have never actually frozen spinach because it’s Jon’s favorite green so we always end up gobbling it all up fresh.

    Kale actually lasts really well in the garden, even in the heat of the summer. So I just harvest it as needed. I’m sure it would freeze fine if you sliced it into ribbons and cooked it first. I love the National Center for Home Food Preservation Website. It’s full of good info, here’s a link to their advice for freezing greens (I’d cook kale like collards, as they both have thicker leaves):
    http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/greens.html

  9. 9
    martin Says:

    can you not boil the old leaves and the stalks to make vegetable soup or stock?

  10. 10
    Lucinda Says:

    I didn’t watch my spinach and it bolted! :( Live and learn. What about letting it grow seeds? Wouldn’t you harvest the seeds instead of just pulling it out?

  11. 11
    Mo Hoyal Says:

    I just finished a delicious salad using a lot of my “bolting” and pointed spinach leaves and did not find it unpleasant or bitter in the least. I was curious as to why I had pointed leaves and looked it up and found this site. I don’t know why my particular spinach still tastes wonderful but I would suggest you taste yours all along so you won’t pull it all up. I find that constant picking prevents flowering and I’ve had my tub of spinach going into its second season. Anyway good growing!

  12. 12
    anna Says:

    It got super hot here in mid spring, so my spinach bolted, it kind of went from seedling to bold in less than a month.
    I don’t pull my plants, I simply pinch off the stalk and keep harvesting the leaves. Once it’s bolted I no longer eat it raw in salads but toss the leaves into a stir-fry with lemon and herbs and other veggies…no longer good enough to be the star of the dish, but still usable.

  13. 13
    dicky Says:

    mine has done this and tastes fine !

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