Bolting refers to the process for leafy pants to flower and set seed. For vegetables and other edibles, bolting is not a desirable characteristic to have as the plant puts its energy into producing flowers and seeds. Its goal is to reproduce itself, rather than developing large, tasty leaves of the edible greens. Because of the shift of energy away from leaves and into seeds/flowers, this changes the taste and flavour of the plants.
Bolting happens for a variety of reasons, and is most commonly related to when the plants are under stress. Stress can occur due to hot weather (ex. spinach), after transplanting (ex. cilantro), or because of lack of water. To delay and prevent the plants from bolting prematurely, understand each plant’s unique growing habits and give them the right level nutrients and water they need.
If your plants have already started to bolt, you may be able to get a bit more leaf production out of the plant by cutting off the flowering stalk (typcially at its base) and giving some TLC to the plants.
Cover Image by Doug Beckers, used under its Creative Commons license.