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How to Harvest, Blanch, and Freeze Swiss Chard, Spinach and Kale
Hello! Thanks for checking out this page on How to Harvest, Blanch, Freeze, and Store Swiss chard, kale, and spinach. The following instructable is from my real-world experience as an avid gardener of everything edible. Cheers!
Large Swiss Chard Leaf
Swiss Chard: The Basics
Swiss Chard is one of the most beneficial plants you can grow in your garden. Chard is fast growing, colorful, easy to prepare, easy to store, and full of vitamins and minerals. It is regarded by some as a close second to spinach in terms of health benefits.
According to the World's Healthiest Foods Organization, Swiss Chard is high in Vitamins K, A, C, E, B2, B6, B1, B3, and B5. It is also high in magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, calcium, zinc, and biotin. To see WHFO's full analysis check out this link, http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16.
Below you will find a quick step-by-step guide to harvesting, blanching, freezing, and storing your swiss chard, as well as an in depth look at each step with pictures! This also works for spinach and kale, with minor variations based on how you want to use your leaf stalks.
If you are looking for some great kale, swiss chard, and spinach recipes, scroll to the bottom and check out My Related Hubs or the links to recipe books I like scattered within this Hub.
Basic Nutrients (1 Cup Raw)
|Serving size: 1 Cup (Raw)|
|Calories from Fat||0|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 0 g|
|Saturated fat 0 g|
|Unsaturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 1 g|
|Sugar 0 g|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 1 g||2%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
- Pick swiss chard by snapping the stem at its base.
- Separate the leaf material from the stalks, discard/compost the stalks if you don't like to eat them. Stalks can be used like celery and are good in soup.
- Heat a large pot of water to a boil.
- Submerge the swiss chard in the boiling water for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, remove the swiss chard and dump the blanched leaves into a sink/large bowl of cold water.
- After the leaves have cooled, grab handfuls of swiss chard and squeeze the water out into the drain.
- Shape blocks of squeezed swiss chard into desired sizes and shapes (blocks are easy).
- Freeze these blocks on a cookie sheet in your freezer.
- Once frozen, remove the blocks from the cookie sheet and package into freezer containers for storage!
Step 1: The Harvest
Pick swiss chard in the morning or evening when it is not too hot. This will keep the leaves fresher while you prepare them. Snap the stalk off of the plant as close to the base as possible, this is both to keep the plants looking nice and help prevent rot from taking hold. Pick the largest leaves first, these are the least likely to keep growing and it allows the smaller leaves to soak in more sun and give you a second and third harvest later in the season. I collect mine in an old milk crate because they are strong, waterproof, and easy to carry/stack.
Step 2a: Separation
There really is no good way to do this. You may only want to keep the leafy matter because the stalk is often very fibrous and stringy when you allow your chard to grow full size. So in whatever way suits you best, remove the leafy matter from the stalk. I prefer to hold the stalk from the underside of the leaf and rip the leaf matter off in 2 pulls.
You can save the stalks, eat them fresh like celery, or use them in soups and roasted dishes. Generally, younger stalks are less stringy and taste better. I don't particularly like the stalks, so stalks go into my compost bin at my house. To each their own.
Step 2b: The Stalk
Some people suggest keeping the stalk too. If you don't mind the taste, the stalks can be eaten like celery. I've also heard of the stalk being blanched (see how to blanch further down), chopped into 1/2" pieces, and frozen to be used in soups. I prefer to add the stalks to my compost bins for the worms to eat.
Step 3: Boiling Water
Fill a big pot, like one you might use for canning, 2/3rds the way full with water. Bring this to a boil over high heat and keep it boiling.
Step 4: Blanching
Blanching is the process of partially cooking vegetables to kill the enzymes that would otherwise cause decomposition. This is a CRTICAL STEP in preparing your Swiss Chard for storage!
Swiss Chard needs to be blanched for about 3 minutes. To do this take a few big handfuls of your chard and toss them into the boiling water, making sure they are completely submerged so they blanch evenly. When the 3 minutes is up, the easiest way to remove the leaves from the water is to dunk a colander in and scoop out and use a pasta spoon (see it in the picture).
I don't use the same water for blanching more than 5-6 batches. You may also need to add a little more water after each batch to make up for the steam and what the leaves soaked up.
Step 5: The Cool Down
After you remove the Swiss Chard from the boiling water it needs to be immersed in very cold water. The cold water stops the cooking process and keeps your Swiss Chard from fully cooking before you freeze it. This always allows you to handle the hot leaves without burning yourself!
Step 6: Squeeze It
Over a bowl or empty sink, take handfuls of cooled Swiss Chard and squeeze out as much water as you can. It will freeze better with less moisture in it and take up less of your precious freezer space! This also allows you to mold the chard into desired shapes.
PRO TIP: Use a large piece of cheesecloth or clean muslin to squeeze water from a large batch of blanched greens. Place the blanched greens in the center of the cheesecloth, bring the 4 corners together and twist the cooled bag of greens. This is a variation of wringing out a towel.
Step 7: Portion Control
If you have ever tried to get a small chunk of frozen vegetables out of a gallon bag, you've probably found out that you either have to thaw the whole bag or get out the machete. To fix this problem, the best way to freeze Swiss Chard is in portion controlled sizes. I have found that I generally use a block slightly larger than a bar of soap in most of my recipes, so this is the size I shoot for. Once the blocks are formed, line them up on a cookie sheet to freeze.
PRO TIP: Use non-stick silicone baking sheets on your cookie sheet before freezing the blocks! It prevents the blocks from freezing to the pan.
Step 8/9: The Freezer
Now that you've shaped your chard into manageble blocks. Its time for them to go in the freezer. Keep them on the cookie sheet while they freeze so they can be snapped apart and placed into containers without being frozen together.
I froze 1 cookie sheet with 23 blocks in 4 hours in my chest freezer.
Once they are frozen, use a spatula and pop them off the cookie sheet. Place the individual blocks into freezer bags or cartons and your finished! Be sure to label your containers with the contents and date. Frozen Swiss Chard will easily store for 8-12 months.