Why do we preserve food? All those plantings often provide way more greens than can be eaten at once. To save abundant garden greens for later use, try freezing. Food preservation using your freezer is quick, easy and convenient. Blanching vegetables for the freezer means your greens won’t go to waste and you can use them throughout the year.
Blanching Your Greens
The first step is to go out and pick your greens. Get lots and lots of them because they cook down significantly when they hit the hot water. I like to take my largest harvest basket out to the garden and fill it until the leaves are falling out the sides. Seeing this basket brimming with greens just makes me happy, too – a picture of abundance.
Bring your greens inside and start your water boiling. I like to use my steamer pot which has the colander built in. It makes pulling the greens out of the hot water a lot faster and allows me to do lots of batches with the same water.
While your water comes to a boil, clean your greens well. Especially with the curly kale, carefully check to make sure you’ve gotten off any creatures in all the nooks and crannies. Then you’re going to want a large cutting board and a good knife. Take the stems out of the kale and chop it up. I like to de-stem about 6-7 leaves then stack and chop them together.
When you get a bowl full and your water is boiling, toss the chopped greens into the boiling water. Leave them in for about 30 seconds. Remove the colander and run the greens under cold water for another 30 seconds. Then squeeze out the liquid from the greens and spread them out on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
I sometimes put another towel on top of them as well to create a sandwich and draw out more liquid. Leave the greens several hours to dry. Label some ziplock bags with the name of the green and when you picked it. When the leaves are fairly dry, pack them into your labeled bags in the quantity that you think you’ll use. I like to make baggies in different sizes so that I can use them for different things throughout the year. After you pack the bags, insert a straw at the corner and close the rest of the top.
Suck out the air as you draw the straw out. It won’t be perfect, but just get out as much air as you can. Your bags will look something like this when you are finished.
Now, just put them in the freezer and you’ll have greens to enjoy all winter long!
So now that you have used your food preservation methods and you have a freezer full of frozen greens. You may be wondering: What do I use them for? Here are some ideas.
I love quiche and make it a lot. Here’s why quiche is so great: It is easy to put together. Raising chickens, we always have eggs on hand. And, you can easily switch up the recipe to utilize whatever vegetables or cheese that you have on hand. Try this recipe but then come up with some of your own variations too. The possibilities are endless! I like to keep pre-made pie crust in the fridge to speed up the process.
- Cooking spray
- 1 pie crust
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 1 chicken sausage, diced
- ½ bell pepper, chopped
- ½ sandwich size bag frozen kale, chard or beet greens, thawed
- 1.5 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ¾ cup milk
- 5 eggs, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon each, salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly spray a pie pan with cooking spray; unroll your crust and press it into the pan. Set aside.
- Add your oil to a skillet. Turn on the heat to medium and add the onion. Sauté for a couple minutes, just until the onion softens. Add the sausage and cook another few minutes. Then add the bell pepper and greens. Cook another minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while you mix together other ingredients.
- In a bowl, combine the cheese and flour. Add the milk, eggs, salt and pepper and basil. Stir to combine.
- Mix in the vegetables and sausage as well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.
- Bake for about 50 minutes. You’ll know it’s finished if you insert a sharp knife into the middle and it comes out mostly clean.
- Let the quiche sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Greek Pasta with Spinach and Feta
This pasta dish is quick, easy and full of flavor. The recipe calls for spinach, but I usually use kale. Feta is a great cheese to keep on hand because it lasts a long time in the fridge and adds much taste to whatever you are cooking. I like to make this dish when I’m still getting fresh garden tomatoes too.
- 2 cup dry pasta (I like to use a pasta that will hold the sauce like rigatoni, penne, fiori, or shells)
- 1 full sandwich size bag frozen spinach, thawed
- 2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
- 1 package feta, crumbled
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil until softened.
- Stir in you spinach, cream, dill, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until heated through and bubbling slightly.
- Combine pasta, spinach mixture, tomatoes and feta in a large bowl.
These are two ideas from my kitchen but there are so many possibilities of how you can use your preserved greens in your cooking. Try adding some to a soup. Use the greens as a pizza topping. Stir some in with your cheese filling for lasagna or other baked pastas. Make a spinach pie! You can substitute your frozen greens in just about any recipe that calls for frozen chopped spinach. Just be aware that if you use rainbow chard or beet greens they may add a pinkish hew to your dish, but hey – that could be part of the charm!
Remember, when you want to save garden greens, think freezing. Freezing food preservation is for everyone! What’s your favorite method? Let us know in the comments below.