Based on your recent Google searches, I gather that I am not the only one drowning in beet greens, turnip greens, collar greens, chard, and kale. Earlier this week I went out to my garden and cut about 5 pounds of kale, turnip greens, and beet greens. This seemed like a manageable project. That’s when my CSA showed up with about a pound each of collards, red beet greens, yellow beet greens, spinach, and frisée. We’ll eat the spinach and frisée in salads, but realistically there are only so many hearty greens that two people can eat in a week. My solution is procrastination: preserve them and figure out how to eat them in winter.
You’ve got three basic options: freezing, dehydrating, or canning. More ambitious folks can try fermenting, like I did with my bumper crop of bok choi last year. But let’s stick with the basics here.
This is the easiest, and probably the best, solution. It’s very, very easy to freeze greens. You just blanch them, cool them in an ice bath, and freeze. I’ve got step-by-step instructions and photos here. Assuming you’ve got a good freezer, these will keep very well for a year. We used ours all winter in soups, stews, pastas, dips, and even just sauteed with garlic. They shrink dramatically when blanched—plan on about a pound of fresh greens to make about two cups.
For most people, this is the way to go. If, however, you have limited freezer space, you live in an area that experiences frequent power outages, or are planning for a future without electricity, you need other options. Alas, they’re not great. But, you asked, so here goes.
Are you one of those people who likes to sprinkle seaweed flakes over your rice bowl at the local health food store? Then you might like this. Steam your greens just until they’re wilted. Transfer them to dehydrator trays and dry at a low temperature (say, 110ºF) just until they’re crispy. You’ll want to keep an eye on them—within two hours, mine looked like this:
Now what, you may ask, would you do with dehydrated turnip greens? That’s an excellent question. I rehydrated some with a little bit of room temperature water, and they looked pretty good. The problem was that they had no perceptible taste. In the end, I crumbled them up and stuck them in a spice jar:
I sprinkled an entire leaf’s worth of flakes over a bowl of roasted potatoes and couldn’t tell they were there. I suspect that they’re still fairly nutritious, though, so maybe this isn’t such a bad way to incorporate hearty greens into your diet. I guess.
The things I do for science.
Yes, it is possible to can hearty greens. It requires a pressure cooker and a processing time of 1 hour, 10 minutes for pints and 1 hour, 30 minutes for quarts. Yes, you read that right. And after you’ve subjected these poor, innocent vegetables to 240ºF to more than an hour, you get this appetizing product:
The nutritional value of all of this is questionable. They taste about like you would expect them to. If, however, you have absolutely no other options and feel strongly about having a pantry full of shelf-stable vegetables, this technique will serve you well. But Lordy, do they smell bad. Here’s how you do it.
1) Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil. You need 2 quarts for the pressure canner, plus some extra to pour over the greens.
2) Steam the greens until wilted. Cut them into manageable pieces.
3) Stuff the greens into canning jars. Add 1/2 t. salt per jar (optional) and cover with boiling water, leaving 1″ headspace. Don’t forget to remove the air bubbles. Adjust two-piece lids.
4) Transfer the jars to a rack on a pressure canner. Pour in 2 quarts of boiling water. Lock the lid into place, but do not place the regulator on the steam vent. Turn on the heat and exhaust steam from the vent for 10 minutes. Then place the regulator on the steam vent and bring the canner to 10 pounds of pressure. Start timing once the regulator starts rocking—70 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts. (If this is confusing, see the step-by-step directions, with pictures, in this post.)
5) Turn off the heat and let the pressure drop of its own accord. When the pressure has dropped, remove the regulator. Now open all your windows. After waiting a few more minutes, open the lid away from your body. The pungent aroma of overcooked turnip greens will fill your house, and you’ll have all the shelf-stable greens you want. Plan on 2 to 5 pounds per pint, depending on the kind of greens involved. Um, yum?