Our garden’s swiss chard has thrived so much this year that it actually got away from us. We eat a lot of vegetables, but two people can only eat so much in a given week. We hadn’t picked any chard in probably three weeks, and in that time the plants got huge, to the point where they were starting to be attacked by pests.
I decided to harvest it all, in the hopes that we’ll get another round later. But this is what I picked from the 5 or 6 plants we have. (OK, plus the peppers, few tomatoes and bag of green beans.) Knowing that you can obviously buy frozen spinach, I decided to try something new and freeze greens at home.
After I took out some chard to make tacos, this is what was left. I separated the leaves and the stems for ease of chopping. Those are decent sized bowls, too.
And then I chopped and I chopped and I chopped.
While I was chopping, I was bringing a large pot of water to boil. Once it was up to temp, I would take batches of leaves and stems and blanch them for about 3 minutes.
Blanching is a quick dunk in boiling water – you can do it with beans and tomatoes, too. It kills the enzymes that make vegetables decay, so they will stop “going bad” in the freezer and retain their color and flavor. I hear you can buy blanchers that are strainer type things that go inside the pots for ease of removal. That would probably be helpful if you’re blanching greens like I was, because man those stems and leaves were hard to fish out.
Once they were out, they were dunked straight into a bowl of ice cold water, to bring down the temperature and abruptly stop the blanching process.
Then it was time to squeeze. The soggy chard hung out in a colander until I added another batch and then another, and so on.
After all of the chard was blanched, rinsed and cooled, I picked up handfuls at a time and squeezed as much moisture out as possible. Each ball was placed on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, for the freezer.
After about 4 hours, the balls were solid and frosty.
Just like the peppers, the swiss chard balls went in a Ziploc bag, with the date as well as a reminder that each ball is about a serving.
Now they’ll be ready to defrost and saute when we need them. I’m not sure how well other greens freeze, like collards or kale. But I know that for the recipes and side dishes where we need chard, the frozen balls will be sufficient.
Theoretically you could remove the stems and only freeze the leaves. I’ve seen recipes for pickled chard stems, but since I’m not interested in pickling every single vegetable on the planet, and because I love the stems of chard just as much as the leaves, I included them. I just chopped off the most fibrous portions from the bottom and threw them in the compost.
What’s going gangbusters in your garden right now? Any preservation plans?