VEGGIE GROWING | HARVESTING AND STORING SPINACH
FED UP OF WILTED SPINACH IN YOUR FRIDGE? ME TOO! NOW I CAN KEEP MY GREENS FRESH FOR TWO WEEKS.
It's fair to say I've made many mistakes when it comes to storing veggies. Those beautiful fresh tomatoes? Shoved in the fridge to wrinkle and shrink. Crisp spinach and greens from the garden? Left in a bowl in - you guessed it - the fridge to wilt in a matter of hours. Then I whacked down the temperature and ended up with frozen sludge instead. DOH.
Growing spinach can be a great way to supplement your diet and cut your food costs. Grown in quantity, it's a brilliant market farm crop too. BUT, it's vital to harvest and store it properly if you're going to boost its shelve life. I mean, it's all well and good pottering down the garden and twisting a few leaves off as and when you need it, but what happens when you need to store it in bulk?
So, first, how to harvest spinach.
In small quantities, just snipping a leaf off here and there can work. This method is especially useful for other leafy greens like lettuce and rocket. However, spinach likes to bolt which means they tend to go to seed easily, particularly in hot weather. If you leave too much greenery on the plant, it'll soon start producing long flower stems...and you don't want that.
By far the best method to harvest spinach is to take a sharp knife, bunch the plant up in your hand and cut across the base. Spinach plants produce new growth very quickly and within a couple of days you'll discover new leaves appearing ready for the next cut. Depending where you live in the world, you can expect several cuts. Here, in the UK, I can get 3 - 4 cuts before the spinach stops growing and gives up. At that point, you can pull all the old plants and reuse the vegetable bed for something else.
If you want to see how it's done, just watch the video below:
Storing your spinach in the correct way is essential to ensure it lasts for weeks, not days. Remember - just because you cut it, doesn't mean it's dead. Greens are still alive, so you need to slow them down into a dormant state to prevent wilting and rotting, and that's down by cooling them.
To Wash or Not?
Moisture is the death knell to greens. Try storing wet spinach, lettuce or other greens, and you'll end up with a slimy mess. Therefore, either DO NOT wash at all if they're relatively clean or wash, spin and dry them. If you haven't got a spinner, try this pillowcase method (it works, I've tried it!)
If you decide NOT to wash, remember - you must wash before eating and you'll need to inform any customers buying your veggies that they're 'unwashed greens'.
To store spinach using this method, you'll need;
- Kitchen towel
- zip-lock bags
- A straw or two
Step 1: Place a few pieces of kitchen towel in a zip-lock bag. No matter how dry your greens are, they will continue to perspire a little even in the fridge. The towel will absorb any excess moisture.
Step 2: Shove your greens inside, snipping off any excess stems and removing any dirty or wilted leaves (this is especially important if you're storing shop-bought greens as some material may already be damaged).
Step 3: Push as much air out of the bag as possible and then use the straw to create a vaccuum.
Step 4: Voila! Stored greens. Pop into veggie compartment of fridge. These will keep for between 10 days and two weeks. Just remember to seal the bag each time you retrieve some yummy spinach.
It might seem rather labour intensive, but taking the time to properly store your spinach and greens is well worth the effort. Instead of picking greens every time you need them, you can harvest in bulk and store for several weeks.