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How to Harvest Spinach Seeds

Updated on June 19, 2013
Male spinach plants do not produce seeds.
Male spinach plants do not produce seeds. | Source

I have grown spinach every year in my vegetable garden since I started gardening. And as much as I promote sustainable practices in the organic garden, I have to admit I've never saved spinach seed. This year I am saving as much seed as possible. As my gardens have grown larger and larger every year, I find myself spending more and more money on vegetable seeds. That seriously cuts into my garden economics.

My spinach is bolting now, and so it is time to learn how to harvest the seeds. It isn't as straightforward as I thought. Spinach produces male and female plants. Only the females have seeds. The males can be tossed into the compost pile as soon as there are no more leaves to harvest. As I was reading through some of the articles online, which make it sound very easy to distinguish between the male and females, I felt rather confident. Then I went outside to take a look at my plants and discovered it isn't so easy.

They all looked the same to me. It takes a close inspection, and they are pretty hard to tell apart in the early stages of bolting. Before you remove any plants you think are males, give them some time to do their thing, that way you can be sure.

It turned out that I only had male spinach plants growing in the garden. A quick look at the original seed packet revealed why. I had planted a hybrid, which are bred to grow sterile plants. In this case, the seeds only produced male plants. If you want to harvest seed, select an heirloom or open pollinated variety to grow. They produce both male and female plants.

Instructions

  1. Identify the male and female plants. The males will have tiny, yellow balls growing underneath the leaves of the stalk. The females have only little green balls under the leaves.
  2. Allow the spinach plants to dry out in the soil.
  3. Remove the plants from the garden. Discard the males. Hang the females upside down in a cool, dry location to dry them completely.
  4. With gloves on, run your fingers along the plants to loosen the seeds. Catch them in a paper bag or other type of container. Blow away the chaff. Save the seeds in cool, dry storage until ready to plant.

Tips

  • Grow only one variety of spinach if you plan to save seeds. Different varieties may cross-pollinate in the garden.
  • Compost the male plants and the dried female plants after harvesting seeds.
  • One female spinach plant can produce hundreds of seeds - enough for several seasons in your home vegetable garden.

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    • profile image

      Tink74 2 years ago

      You mentioned having all male plants. I let my spinach bolt, harvested the seeds and I remember maybe 1 female plant...maybe. Can I still use the seeds or will they not grow?

    • Julie McM profile image
      Author

      Julie McM 6 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Dirt Farmer. Glad you found it useful.

      Thank you, infotek. Starting small is a good idea. If you use companion planting, you can get a lot more food in a smaller area. You should check it out.

    • infotek profile image

      infotek 6 years ago from London

      I haven't grown vegetables for over 30 years now and this year decided to give it a try on a small scale and see how successful I am (or not!!) before increasing the amount I grow next year.

      I have found your hub extremely useful because I have done a lot of research but this is the first time I have come across this and I am growing Spinach.

      Very useful thank you Julie.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      Never tried this. What a good idea! Thanks for the useful hub.