Thursday, June 18, 2015

Preserving the Greens

I've read some posts recently about how people preserve their greens. Mostly it is all the same. Wash, blanch, cool, freeze. The differences are all in the details. I've found over the years what does and doesn't work for me. And some of what I do is a little different from the norm.

Four gallon wash pan

Washing seems simple. But it is really trimming and washing. I do most of my trimming outdoors at the same time that I pick. This makes the whole indoor time shorter. I like being outside most of the time. Here you see me washing my chard. However there are no stems on it. Those were removed while I picked. Any large annoying things are picked off too, like insects or the ever present maple barf that keeps coming down from the trees. I think that is over at least. Though I'll be pulling a lot of little maple seedlings soon. I always pick with a bucket by my side to toss in any waste. And anytime I'm under a row cover I weed around the plants. Once the greens are brought inside the leaves don't need much more than a quick rinse. Though I use a very big wash pan to make washing easier and I harvest right into my wash pan. And when I'm done with the water it gets tossed on my raspberry plants. They love the extra water.

Blanching is pretty easy. Toss the washed greens into a large pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes depending on the crop. The difference comes when I remove those greens. I don't put a colander in my sink an pour. I have a really nifty tool to remove the greens from the boiling water. The water stays on the stove. I often do more than one batch at a time. If I put too many greens into the water at once the water never gets back to boiling before the time is up. It cools it down too much. So I do about 1 to 1 1/2 pound batches at a time. As soon as one batch is removed the next batch goes right in. For me, throwing hot water down the sink between would be a horrible waste of hot water not to mention my own time. Water takes a long time to boil.

I'm pretty typical on cooling my greens. A pot of ice water. Some people use their kitchen sink with ice in it. I cringe at that. Kitchen sinks have the most bad bacteria of any place in your house. I cut open my packets of raw chicken in my sink. I don't want to contaminate my nice greens. I often eat them by just thawing them out and eating them cold. I love cold greens (yes I'm weird that way). I do have to say though, now that I'm blanching a lot I've found I'm in love with my ice maker. I thought it was an irrelevant item when we bought it. But we couldn't get it without one. Now when I'm in big time blanch mode in the spring, I always have ice.

Once the greens are cold I put it into a mini loaf pan. Each one holds about a serving if I mound them up a bit and compress them. I like that they are rectangular. When I store them they take up less space in the freezer. These go on a cookie sheet and into the freezer for about five hours.

They are unmolded and 12 of them are stored together and vacuum sealed in a bag. I like these packets better than what I was doing last year which were individual packets. They take up a lot less space in the freezer and use less plastic. Though in 6 months we will see if the blocks still separate easily. I think they will.

If I eat only from the garden over the winter. I need four of these squares a day for me. I tend to eat two cups of greens each day and two cups of orange, white, or purple things. Right now I'm eating more like three cups of greens, but it is greens season. Color is harder to come by. I'm not getting things like sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, or carrots quite yet. So each packet represents three days if I never leave the house for food (I don't often), never buy food from the store, and I eat my vegetables like I should. Say I have four months that I need over our frozen winter. I'd need 30 packets. Ouch! That is a lot to store. I'm thinking with my current diet I won't get enough stored for the winter, but I'll do the best I can. So far I think I have 15. So about half way there.

Turnips are frozen differently than my greens

Greens aren't the only thing I've been freezing. But the others are small bits here and there. I've been freezing my strawberries when I have extra. Though I think they have started to slow down so not much more will be frozen on that front. Those I froze in half pound segments as I use them in my smoothies in that quantity. I froze a couple pounds of turnips when I had that big batch from under the broccoli. Slowly but surely the freezer is filling up. As is typical though I won't have enough to last the whole winter. I'll try but the garden isn't quite big enough for that. Nor is my freezer for that matter.


  1. I blanch my greens the same way, by keeping a pot of water boiling and scoop out the blanched greens into a bowl of ice water. Most of the trimming happens outside too and the chickens are used to getting a handful of greens when I am finished harvesting.

  2. I use one of those copper Chinese scoop/strainers (I think they are called "spiders") to fish out the veg. I can't imaging throwing all that water down the sink just to fill & heat up another batch - all that time, energy & water wasted. And I know what you mean about using the sink to wash veg - I only do that if I am planning on doing pounds of stuff & then I will wash the sink & disinfect it with a water/bleach solution that I keep in a spray bottle before giving it a final rinse. Even so, I only do greens that will subsequently be blanched or cooked. Lettuce is always cleaned in a big bowl.

    I think that your use of the silicone loaf pan is ingenious - I would definitely try that if I had a good vacuum sealer (I have one but it's pretty old & doesn't work very well; can't even remember the last time I used it).

  3. That is a lot of greens to process. I froze beans and greens last year and the greens are still in the freezer. Shows our preference.

  4. We have a fridge with a built-in water-cooler and ice-maker / dispenser, which is really handy when doing jobs like those you describe. I totally agree with you about not using the kitchen sink for blanching etc - very dangerous.

  5. Such clever ideas! I have one of those Chinese scoopers, too, and use it for my blanching. I do a lot of pole beans for the winter later in the summer; looks like you have a vacuum sealer? As I don't, I use a plastic straw and suck out the air from each bag, which I reuse. Love the silicon mold for greens. I use ice cube trays to freeze basil or cilantro puree and then pop them into bags.

    Speaking of cilantro-- free for the asking here. I let too much selfseed...