Spinach, kale, escarole, collard greens, they are all the same. I buy them either fresh by the pound or in a fresh prepackaged bag, stick them in the refrigerator with every intention of using them in salads, sautees or soups. Then I either forget they are there, or cook other ideas through the week, and there they sit. If I let it sit too long, it ends up getting squishy and slimy and crossing that line into the “unknown veggie” zone - that deep, dark, green, liquefied state. I have, over the years, thrown away way too much food like that but I keep hearing my grampa’s words in the back of my head, ‘Waste not, want not.”
Let’s face it - the economy is not as good as they would like us to believe, and food prices are going up. I saw apples the other day - not that long ago, a couple years at most, a 3 lb bag in season could be bought for anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 on sale. The ad I saw online was for a local grocery and they were selling a 3 lb bag of apples for $4.99. This week, the out of state apples are about $2.75 a bag for the 3 lb bag. That is at least a little better, but it makes you put things into perspective so you can start finding ways to save money AND preserve foods.
A couple years ago I had the brilliant idea to nip my waste in the bud by grabbing whatever is left at the end of the week and throwing it in the freezer, often just as it is. Sometimes I will slip it into a zipper bag for better protection from freezer burn, but often I just toss it on a shelf for use later. I know someone out there will tell me that this is not the proper way to freeze foods, and that I truly should take the time to blanch the veggies. Often I am in a hurry and just am not willing to take the time to blanch, chill, dry, package, freeze, when I can just grab the bag and throw it on a shelf. I have also been known to take the plastic tubs full of organic spinach and just toss them in as well.
These frozen greens are great to throw in soups, stews, sautees, quiche, or anywhere you would toss fresh greens then allow to steam. We have also just grabbed a bag out, steamed it and served it with olive oil or butter as a quick and easy side dish. I find, personally, if I do this with the tougher greens like kale and collard they do work better in meals, too, because my random freezing breaks down some of the wood stems better than steaming, then adding to meals. And just imagine the energy I am saving by not precooking a small bag or two, then cooking again later!
Yes, you will definitely read all over the internet and in books as well as be advised by those at every cooperative extension that blanching is a MUST to stop all enzyme activity and to reduce the nutrient loss of vegetables that are frozen. Yes, you will also see that freezing without blanching will “change the texture” or flavor of the vegetables. Some will even tell you that you run the risk of the non-blanched vegetables to continue to decompose or “go bad” while in the freezer. Over the years I have heard many people say that not blanching the greens makes them flavorless, but I can only speak from experience here - and that has not been the case. We have still used the greens with great results in many different types of dishes, BUT we make sure to use them within a couple of months of sticking them in the freezer. Often times we use them within a a week or two by not buying more fresh until the frozen ones are gone.
Please note, I would NOT do this with any other vegetable that I am going to freeze. If I am going to store corn, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or any other vegetable, I will always blanch those first. I will take the time to set aside a day, pick or buy in bulk, and process as much as possible for the freezer all at once. These vegetables tend to be the ones that I store for longer periods of time, though - sometimes up to a full year. The greens I freeze are top on our list of things to use and I make sure to schedule them in somewhere within 3 months of throwing them in the freezer because this is just a stop-gap measure to save what I over bought and didn’t use. Waste not, want not.
If you prefer to blanch your greens first, make sure you study and learn the proper equipment to have on hand, as well as the specific amount of time for each vegetable you plan to blanch/freeze. Every vegetable is different, and therefore needs a different time under the hot water to stop the enzyme activity and to prepare them for deep freezing.
In a pinch, this method of quick-freeze and use for greens may help you salvage what you might normally throw away. It could help you stop wasting money as well. On the other hand, if you have a compost heap, you can always toss it there and “grow” some delicious dirt!
Judith has over 20 years experience in food storage, herbs, essential oils, and prepping. She was a captain in the USAF-AUX, FEMA trained, Community Emergency Response Team member and NRA marksmanship award recipient. She shares her experiences with her readers offering tips and recipes.
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