Spinach shoots: is it still edible with the blossom?

When spinach shoots, it still has a lot of leaves attached. Are they still edible during flowering? Or should we forego the harvest for the sake of our health?

Appearance and flowering of spinach

After sowing, the spinach, botanically Spinacia oleracea , forms a rosette of leaves from which new leaves constantly sprout. Then the outer, larger leaves can be gradually harvested, while the heart remains to sprout again. Up to four harvests per season are possible. The plants remain low, reaching a maximum height of 20 cm with their slightly upright leaves.

Finally, the existence of the spinach plants leads to a period of flowering, which leads to the formation of seeds and thus to the survival of the species. This is the normal course of nature. A stalk grows up from the middle of each plant, on which the flowers are lined up. These flower stalks can grow up to 60-80 cm high.

What does “the spinach shoots” mean?

When a spinach plant shoots, it means nothing other than that it has started flowering. The word shooting clarifies the enormous speed, which is shown in the growth of the flower stalks. Within a few days, all the spinach plants have clearly increased in height.

When the sentence “The spinach shoots” falls, there is often a negative connotation. This is because the beginning of the flowering period does not suit the gardener at all, because it is simply too early for that. In this case, the leafy greens will shoot before they have had a chance to deliver the expected amount of harvest. Why it suddenly shoots can have the following reasons, among others:

  • too much dryness
  • too much sunlight
  • warm temperatures

The growth of the leaves during flowering

When spinach plants begin to flower, new foliage no longer sprout from the leaf rosettes. There are numerous leaves growing along the flower stalk, but they are tiny. However, there may still be numerous large leaves at the bottom of the plants that are pre-flowering and just haven’t been harvested yet. One often hears from gardening circles that they are no longer edible. This is determined using two criteria: taste and ingredients.

The taste of spinach in bloom

Buttery and mild in taste, that is typical spinach green. However, the further the flowering progresses, the more bitter and inedible the leaves become because they contain more oxalic acid. That’s why every spinach lover should act as soon as they discover the plants are starting to shoot:

  • harvest all the leaves
  • store in the refrigerator
  • Consume fresh within 2-3 days
  • alternatively wash the spinach leaves immediately
  • blanch and freeze

enrichment with nitrate

Harmful concentrations of nitrate or nitrite are often mentioned in connection with spinach. Especially when the plants are heavily fertilized, they absorb a lot of nitrate from the soil. High amounts of it do not cause any acute damage in the human body, but warnings are given of long-term damage. The nitrate, which is produced by converting nitrate, is considered carcinogenic. The flowering time of the spinach plays an important role here. It causes more nitrate to be stored in the leaves. Because of this, the leaves of flowering plants are no longer used in food.

Tip: Sunlight helps break down nitrate in the leaves. Therefore, generally harvest spinach leaves in the evening or at least in the late afternoon.

Cut back spinach plants immediately?

If the flower is in the beginning, the gardener is tempted to cut back the plants vigorously. The hope of new leaf sprouting drives him on, but is rarely fulfilled. The spinach usually tries to sprout new flower stalks immediately.

Allow spinach plants to flower

Even if the flowering plants no longer provide a leaf harvest, they can still give us plenty of free seeds for the new season. If you can, leave at least a few flowering spinach plants where you can easily harvest the ripe seeds a little later.

Remove spinach plants from the bed

If you don’t want to get seeds, flowering spinach plants in the bed are useless. They even remove nutrients from the soil and occupy areas that you could otherwise plant. So tear them out as soon as possible. Even if the leaves are not edible, they can be composted.

Save lost crops by reseeding

Spinach’s shooting mostly occurs in the summer when the days are getting warmer and it may not be watered as evenly as it would like. A gap in the harvest time does not have to be accepted for long, because these leafy vegetables can be sown several times a year. So the second sowing of the year from August to September is possible. About four weeks later you can harvest. With a winter cover, the plants survive the winter and provide fresh leaves again in the following spring.

Tip: New Zealand spinach, which is actually not a type of spinach but tastes similar, can be grown here in the summer. He brings one good quality with him: he doesn’t tend to shoot.

Kira Bellingham

I'm a homes writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in publishing. I have worked across many titles, including Ideal Home and, of course, Homes & Gardens. My day job is as Chief Group Sub Editor across the homes and interiors titles in the group. This has given me broad experience in interiors advice on just about every subject. I'm obsessed with interiors and delighted to be part of the Homes & Gardens team.

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