Bolting: Is it Too Late to Harvest from Plants?

With heatwaves being experienced this summer in many regions, you may be coming up against the problem of plants bolting. Bolting is the name given by gardeners to the sudden and premature development of a plant to the flowering/ seed producing stage. It is, in essence, plants rushing to enter the reproductive phase of growth.

Bolting is usually not something we wish to see. Since plants which have bolted often become bitter, and are no longer fit for edible use. Seeing plants bolting can be disappointing. But it does not always mean ‘game over’.

Certain plants, like lettuce and spinach, will definitely not taste as good after they have begun to bolt. Their flavour will be more bitter. And while you may still add the odd leaf of a plant which has just begun to bolt to a mixed salad with good results, generally speaking, once the plant bolts, the harvesting period will be done.

Other plants, however, can still taste good after they bolt. Cutting off the flowering portion of the plant will often allow you to continue to harvest new leaves. And these leaves will taste no worse than the ones harvested before flowering. The plants will not return to their previously leafy productive state, but you can still harvest from them.

Pak choi for example, and several other brassicas, have flowering shoots that you can eat, and once you have removed them, new growth should appear at the base of the plant.

Flowering stems of Swiss chard and beetroots, where these appear, can also be eaten. Remove these quickly, and you should still get some more leafy growth on these plants too. 

Herbs like basil and parsley also taste fine after the plants have begun to bolt, so just nip off the flowering stems as quickly as possible and keep harvesting.

You can also think about additional yields which can come from bolting plants – radish pods, coriander seeds, mustard seeds etc…

So if your plants are bolting, don’t be too quick to pull them all up out of the ground.

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