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Here’s how to harvest spinach seeds from spinach plants growing in your garden!
Can you save Spinach Seeds? Yes! Saving spinach seeds is something we do every year! As long as you grow heirloom or open pollinated seed, you can save spinach seeds from this years harvest to plant next year.
I like using a lot of spinach in smoothies for breakfast and so we always grow a couple of rows. We eat spinach in salads and on sandwiches in early spring and later in the fall.
This is a vegetable that we begin to grow in early spring. It loves cool weather and we can sow seed into the garden as soon as the snow is off the beds. In the fall, we fill our garden beds again with lots of good compost, full of nutrients. Come early spring, we are good to start growing.
Once the spinach seedlings have started growing lots of leaves, we start enjoying baby spinach leaves. And as the plants get larger, we make sure to pick the outer leaves (cut or snap the stem). We usually just pick the small leaves for salads and the mature leaves are added to soup or steamed as a side dish for dinner.
Spinach bolts easily in the hot summer months we have here. Actually, by late spring and early summer, the plants have usually started to bolt in the warmer days. We can use this to our advantage and easily save seeds for next year.
In late summer, we can put in another row of spinach seed because the temperatures have cooled down. The plants will grow until after the first frost, past early fall. This way we can get two good crops each year.
If really cold weather hits for some reason, we can always use row covers overnight. But we usually don’t have any problems growing enough for salads, soups and even dehydrating some for winter use.
There are many spinach varieties; we usually grow Bloomsdale spinach which has a good germination rate and does very well in northern gardens. Any variety of spinach will eventually bolt and when that happens, plan to save your own seeds!
How to Harvest Spinach Seeds
The most important thing when it comes to saving seed is to use the correct seed in the first place. Using heirloom seed is what you want!
Harvesting spinach seed is quite easy to do and it saves a lot of money. It also gives me a feeling of security knowing that I have viable seeds for the following year and don’t have to rely on ordering them.
Here’s a few pictures of how I harvest Spinach seeds. The theory works the same for pretty much any leaf crop, such as Swiss Chard.
When you harvest your Spinach leaves, be sure to leave a few plants alone and just let them grow. Let some young plants just grow to maturity and then set seed.
If you can, pick your healthiest looking ones (dark green leaves) so that you will have the healthiest best seed for next year.
As the season carries on, those Spinach plants will get larger and larger and the female plants will start sending up flower stalks from the middle of the plant.
Note: the male plants will also flower a little bit, but much sparser than the female plants. However, only the female plants will set seeds.
Just leave them be and sit back and enjoy the flowers.
When to Harvest Seeds
After the flowers fade just leave the plant be to continue maturing. Let the flowers dry on the stalks and over the next few weeks, you should see seeds setting. There will be a mix of seeds, some larger, some smaller. Once the seeds begin to dry, keep an eye on them.
You can either remove the spinach flower stalks now or let the seeds keep drying on the stems. As long as you remove them before the seeds actually start falling to the ground, it’s fine.
At that point, carefully snip the stalks with good garden scissors and put them into a paper bag large enough to fit all the stalks. If seeds start falling, put a paper bag over the entire seed head, close the bag and then cut the stem.
How to Save Spinach Seeds
Now, you want to store the spinach seeds safely until all of the moisture has evaporated. So, just tie a string around the bag and hang it up or set it out of the way. Air drying spinach seeds is the easiest way; just hang it up and forget it for a couple of weeks.
After a few weeks, you can thresh out your seeds. An easy way to do this is to reach inside the bag, grab a stalk and then move your hand down the stalk, removing everything which will then fall to the bottom of the bag.
What do spinach seeds look like?
I realize this is a blurry shot, but it’s the best I have right now. Still, here you can easily see all the seed in tight clusters. The leaves have withered to almost nothing, but there are a lot of seeds on that little portion of stalk. When you finish threshing them into the bottom of the bag, transfer the seeds into a bowl.
Now, we need to separate those pieces of leaves from the seeds. An easy way to do that is to stand on the porch with a breeze going and pour the seed from one bowl to another, letting the breeze catch those leaves.
The seeds are heavier so they will fall into the lower bowl. Meanwhile, the breeze will blow the leaves away.
After that, I can put them in an paper seed envelope and save them in a cool dark place. I store my seeds in our cool basement but you can store them in the freezer as well.
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