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How to Freeze Greens: Collards, Mustard, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale

This past weekend, along with weeding my heart out, the kids and I decided to harvest our spinach and some of our Swiss Chard.  You know, it just doesn’t look like too awful lot when you’re outside, but when you bring it all in…it looks like it’s covering the entire kitchen!  So, feeling overwhelmed that I bit off more than I could chew, I decided that I needed to do something quick with all of the overage that we couldn’t eat fresh.  Because I like most vegetables preserved by freezing and I have ample freezer space with several small freezers and a large deep freeze, I decided to blanch and freeze the great green mass!
Here are the steps: 
 Aren’t they pretty?  This variety of Swiss Chard is called “Bright Lights”
1.  Pick the greens:  Whether you are picking your own or getting them from a farmer’s market, make sure you select greens that are not too large or tough.  Some leaves are naturally big, like collards and Swiss chard, so make your best judgment. Stay away from discolored, yellow leaves and leaves with a lot of bug damage.
*It’s very important, if you’re picking from your garden to harvest in the cool of the morning or evening, otherwise, the midday sun will cause wilting and you will defeat your purpose of having fresh, crisp veggies.  Process vegetables as soon as possible.  If not right away, keep in refrigerator or on ice.
 2.  Wash:  I like to use a double sink method.  Fill both sides with clean, cold water.  After trimming off excess stems and any leaf damage, place desired leaves into one side of sink.  Agitate leaves in water with your hands.  Let the leaves sit in the water for about 3 to 5 minutes to allow all of the dirt and grit to sink to the bottom.  After the time is up, skim the leaves carefully off the top of the water and transfer over to the fresh water side.  Agitate again with hands and wait for another 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from water, rinsing in cold running water for the final rinse.  Place onto double-folded clean kitchen towels for drip-drying.
3.  Fill large pot about 2/3 full of clean water and bring to a full boil.  

4.  Blanch greens:   Use one gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables. Put the vegetable into vigorously boiling water. Push down with tongs.  The water should return to boiling within 1 minute, if it doesn’t, you are using too much vegetable for the amount of boiling water. Start counting blanching time as soon as you place the vegetables into the boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and keep heat high for the time given in the directions for the vegetable you are freezing.  In this case, 3 minutes.  (Below is a chart of times for various vegetables)

What & Why? Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.

Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.

Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Underblanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Overblanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals.

5.  Shock greens:  Shocking vegetables is the process of plunging them into ice water to immediately stop the cooking process.  This preserves the color, nutrients and flavor.

Fill clean sink basin or large bowl with fresh water and a lot of ice.  Using tongs or slotted spoon to remove boiling vegetables, immediately transfer to ice bath and gently stir and submerge allowing them to cool for about the same time as they cooked.

6.  Drain:  I like to gently squeeze the water out of the chard so that I’m not freezing a lot of ice crystals.  Here, I laid multiple layers of paper towel on my counter top and placed squeezed bundles of greens to drain.  I measured the piles based on serving sizes. I used about 1 handful per person to amount to a serving.  I bagged the greens according to the servings I would typically use for a given meal or recipe.

7.  Bag: A lot of people like the Foodsaver system, but I don’t have one yet.  I used Ziploc freezer bags and squeezed out as much air as possible.  Make sure to label and date your packages!  Greens can be kept frozen for 8 to 12 months.

Here’s a handy chart for cooking times: National Center for Home Food Preservation

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About Jennifer

Jennifer Locklin is the writer of Jennifer Cooks, a vibrant food blog that features all kinds of recipes from home cooking to foods from around the world. She is passionate about cooking and food photography.

9 comments on “How to Freeze Greens: Collards, Mustard, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale

  1. Beautiful chard!! I'm going to grow some of that next year. Thanks for the processing lesson, I plan on freezing a lot of my veggies this year also, I look forward to future lessons :)

  2. What a great post Jane! I have never heard that about blanching the green to preserve the nutrients…I have never frozen my leafy greens as I tend to buy them a few times a week fresh instead for my green smoothies. Occasionally if they are looking like I won't finish them before the start wilting, I just throw the whole bag in the freezer and then blend them frozen. Haven't noticed a difference in taste, but I guess I'm only freezing them for 24hrs or so.
    Anyway, really enjoyed your post and may look into doing some blanching/freezing myself – certainly keeps meal time easy!

  3. YEAAAAAA!!!! Thank you so much for this post and the process photos. I can do this with fresh spinach! :D

    P.S. I love the header, especially the leftmost photo of someone holding fresh, local carrots.

  4. You're a star, I've just been wondering what to do with my spinach and thinking I'd have to throw it out! Perfect timing!

  5. Thank you for this post! I have a ton of greens and was going to freeze them raw (since that's how I typically like to eat them – in smoothies and salads), but it sounds like that would have been a bad idea! I'm so glad I read this post so I didn't make that mistake – I certainly want to preserve the most nutrients possible. Thanks again!

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