I may be fanatical about growing and preserving the best possible, nutritious food for our table, but enough is
But then, eureka! I stumbled upon an article that said you can freeze greens WITHOUT blanching. Wahoo, this is something I had to try.
The only caveat is that you should use the unblanched product within six months of stashing in the freezer. I can do that, I said to myself. If I freeze greens now in mid-July, that would mean they would hold their optimum nutritional value until near the end of January.
A week or so ago, armed with my biggest stainless steel bowl, out to the garden I went to cut leaves of spinach.
Brought them in and submerged them in cool water, mixed them around with gentle agitation, poured out the water and did it once again.
This is my trusty, old, well-used salad spinner.
Then I ran each individual leaf under running water and put batches through my salad spinner. Spread two bath towels out on the table and laid the leaves in a single layer to further dry. In a bit, I patted the leaves with another towel to remove all the moisture drops I could.
(This picture is of Swiss chard as I
didn't think to take pictures
when I was doing the spinach.)
Stuffing the quart freezer bags as full as possible, squeezing out as much air as I could, and sealing the bags were the final steps.
Still too much unnecessary time and trouble? Yep. Hey, I'm a
When I next harvested more spinach, which is planted intensively with grass mulch under the plants to prevent dirt splashing up onto the plants when it rains or when I water with the garden hose, I inspected each leaf as I cut it. Hmmm. No dirt and only a crawly bug (or two) was spotted.
Why was it necessary to wash and dry this spinach before packing it? I knew the soil it was grown in, I knew the plants had not been sprayed with chemical poisons, I knew the leaves were not dirty, and I had flicked off the couple of bugs I came across.
Just to be sure I didn't pack any unwanted "protein" in with the spinach, I inspected each leaf, both top and bottom, after bringing them into the kitchen. Then I stuffed them into the freezer bags which would be their home for the next six months. Or, in most cases, less.
A day later I repeated the same process with baby-to-small leaves of Swiss chard.
After the spinach and Swiss chard had been in the freezer for several days, we cooked and taste tested both greens. They were delicious.
How did I cook the frozen product? (You could also use the frozen greens in a smoothie or other health drink without cooking.)
I brought a small amount of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan. Then I took the still frozen contents out of the quart freezer bag, broke it apart so it would fit into the saucepan, and brought the water back to a boil.
I then cooked the greens over a medium flame for, I'm sure, less than five minutes. Poured off the water and used a wooden spoon to press out as much more of the water as I could.
Back on the stove over a low flame, I added garlic salt and pepper, a little butter and in one case, some sliced mozzarella cheese on top. (Yum!) Put the cover on the pan and let the contents simmer until the butter or cheese melted. (To reduce the amount of nutrients lost, you could also consider steaming the frozen greens.)
Even with the shade cloth cover, my spinach is beginning to bolt so I don't know how much more of it I will get. Of course, the Swiss chard will remain vibrant and healthy until a really hard frost knocks it out, but until then we'll use it fresh, and I'll keep harvesting some of it to freeze for this coming winter.
I'd be curious to know if any of you try this method of preserving greens and if you find it simple enough and are as satisfied with the outcome as I've been.