Greens are a fundamental part of a healthy diet.
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The term greens tends to refer to leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and collard greens. This is not an exhaustive list and there are many more vegetables that fall under the category of greens.
It is recommended that you consume 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day, and greens are a great source of a number of nutrients.
Can you freeze spinach, kale, and collard greens?
Provided you follow our instructions correctly, you can freeze leafy greens for up to 9 months without blanching.
What are greens?
Greens is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of vegetables.
These include kale, micro greens, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, and watercress. Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, endive, turnip greens, and bok choy also fall under this category.
Greens are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are fantastic sources of folate, calcium, and a number of vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins A, B, C, and D, plus manganese and potassium.
With all this nutrition comes relatively few calories. This makes them the perfect way to bulk out a meal and add a number of healthy qualities to your plate.
The spinach leaf in particular is full of nutritional goodness. Fresh spinach leaves are a staple in my house for spinach artichoke dip, green smoothie, and other yummy recipes requiring a green leafy vegetable. Fresh greens are a welcome addition to many dinner recipes. Frozen spinach, frozen kale, and frozen collard greens can be just as useful.
What are some health benefits that you get from greens?
A diet that is rich in greens can help with weight loss and reducing your blood pressure. The antioxidants can help to protect your body from developing cardiovascular diseases and other disorders.
The nutrients, such as the B vitamins, can help to improve your mental capabilities. This can improve your focus and mental clarity.
There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that a diet rich in greens can reduce your chances of developing mental illnesses.
Greens also provide the body with anti-inflammatory properties and can help to heal it from diseases.
The antioxidants have also been shown to have some protection against the development of cancer. This is because they absorb harmful free radicals floating about the body.
What are the benefits of freezing greens?
The nutrients in frozen vegetables are almost perfectly preserved.
When you keep fresh vegetables in the refrigerator, they begin to lose their nutrients over time.
Freezing them will lock in all the nutrients, meaning that potentially the greens will be better for you when frozen!
How to freeze greens
Prior to taking any steps to freeze greens, you should wash and pat the leaves dry.
We also recommend chopping them into bite-sized pieces. This helps to stop the enzyme action which is what causes the greens to decompose.
At this stage, you can also remove the stems of the leafy greens.
The first step when freezing greens is to do a pre-freeze (also known as a flash freeze). This stops the greens from losing their crisp and fresh texture.
It also prevents them from wilting and retains the flavor better.
You will need to line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the greens along the surface. Try to keep them in a singular, flat layer.
Place this baking sheet in the freezer and leave for 2 - 3 hours to freeze solid.
Once this time has elapsed, remove the baking sheet from the freezer. Find a rigid, plastic, airtight container. Transfer the greens to this container and seal.
You could also transfer the frozen greens to a ziplock, freezer-safe bag. We do not recommend this as greens are easily damaged, and this bag does not offer any protection against other items in the freezer.
Label the bag or container with the contents (the type of green), the quantity, and the date frozen.
An alternative method to freeze greens is to make a paste. Blend your greens with a little water or oil to make a smooth paste.
You can then pour this into a muffin tray (for larger cubes), or an ice cube tray for smaller ones.
Pop these in the freezer for a couple of hours to freeze solid. Once this is done, remove the muffin or ice cube tray from the freezer. Pop the cubes out of the tray and transfer them to a ziplock bag.
Label the bag with the type of greens, the volume of each cube, and the date frozen. It is wise to measure the volume of the muffin tray holes or ice cube tray cubes before adding in the blended greens.
A standard ice cube tray creates cubes that are 2 tablespoons in volume, and a standard muffin tray creates blacks around ½ cup in volume.
How to remove the stems
Many people do not like the bitter and tough stems found on most leafy greens. This is very easy to remove if you wish to, although it is completely optional.
This method works best on collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, and rainbow chard.
Hold the base of the stem in one hand and wrap the fingers of your other hand around the circumference.
Slide your hand up the stem, from the thickest area to the thinnest. This will strip the leaf off the stem very efficiently.
You can keep the stalks to make vegetable stock with, or pop them on your compost pile.
How to thaw greens
Thawing frozen greens is very easy to do. The night before you wish to use them, remove them from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw gently.
You could also leave them on the countertop if you wish to thaw them more quickly. They should take around 2 hours to fully defrost at room temperature.
For faster thawing, we recommend spreading the greens out into a large, single layer. You can also place a sheet of kitchen paper underneath the greens to absorb any excess moisture as the leaves defrost.
Pat them dry once they have thawed before you use them.
What are some good ways to eat frozen greens?
If you are not a big fan of the taste of greens but want to get the health benefits, a great way to use them is in a smoothie.
Blend a cup or so of frozen greens with some frozen fruits and a liquid of your choice. Add in some nuts, oats, or chia seeds to make the smoothie more substantial.
Another good way to use frozen greens is to make a soup. Fry some onions and garlic, add vegetables and greens of your choice, and add some vegetable stock.
Simmer until all of the vegetables are cooked through before blending and seasoning to taste.
You can also add chunks of frozen greens to almost any hot dish as it is cooking. This adds a great nutritional hit to any meal, and often can’t even be tasted!
Why do people blanch greens before freezing?
Greens can be stored in the freezer for up to a year if they are blanched first.
The blanching process halts the enzyme action which causes the greens to spoil. It also means that the flavor, color, and texture of the greens are preserved better.
Greens, particularly leafy greens, have a high concentration of oxalic acid when raw. This is a mineral inhibitor and can lead to the development of kidney stones in the body.
The boiling process causes the oxalic acid to be released into the cooking water, which can then be disposed of.
Can you have too many greens?
Yes, surprisingly you can eat too many greens.
You can experience health issues from eating too many, such as irritable bowels, kidney stones, sickness, stomach aches, and low blood pressure.
It would take a massive 7 pounds of greens per day in order to experience these symptoms. They are vital to a healthy diet and you should always try to include them in your day to day life.
How to pick good greens
This varies depending on what type of greens you are selecting, but here are some general tips.
The greens should appear crisp, hydrated, and fresh. They should be a bright and vibrant green color. Avoid any greens that are beginning to yellow or that appear wilted.
Where possible, and where your budget allows, try to buy organic greens. This is because non-organic greens are often high in pesticides.
How to store greens in the refrigerator
You will need to thoroughly wash and dry your greens before storing them. We suggest running them through a salad spinner to remove as much moisture as possible.
You should then wrap them loosely in a tea towel and knot to hold them together. Try not to pack the greens too closely together as this will mean that they decompose faster.
Pop the entire parcel of greens inside a glass pot in the refrigerator. Store them near the back of the refrigerator, as this is where the temperature is the most stable.
Alternatively, you can place the cleaned and dried greens into reusable food-safe storage bags. Seal them loosely and do not pack them too tightly inside the bag.
Ensure that the greens are totally dry before placing them in the bag.
The only time this doesn’t matter is if you are using a bag made from terry cloth, as this will prevent the moisture from making the greens rot faster.
If you have space in your refrigerator you can store hardier greens, such as kale and collard greens, in a glass of water.
Place them upright with the stems in the water. This is a similar principle to storing flowers in a vase of water and will help to keep the greens fresher for longer.
Are spring greens and collard greens the same?
Both spring greens and collard greens come from the same plant, but this does not mean that they are the same product.
Spring greens are the earlier, springtime cabbages that the plant produces. Collard greens grow later and tend to be more green.
Can collard greens be eaten raw?
Yes, you can eat collard greens in their raw and natural state.
We love to eat them in sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Their firm leaves will add a good textural quality to any dish.
What takes the bitterness out of collard greens?
When washing collard greens, we recommend adding baking soda to the water you are using. Ensure you rinse them 3 times before cooking.
A long cooking period is one of the best ways to take the bitterness out of collard greens. Depending on the volume of greens you are cooking, you should aim to keep the greens on the heat for at least 1 to 2 hours.
You should then begin seasoning the greens with a teaspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of salt. Mix these well through the greens and give them a taste.
If they are still too bitter, keep adding these seasonings, one teaspoon at a time.
Many people like to eat them topped with malt or balsamic vinegar to add a tang to your greens.
Adding other strong flavors will also help to temper the natural bitterness of collard greens. Think garlic, heat, some dried fruit, or roasted vegetables.
These will add another dimension to your dish and detract from the bitterness of the collard greens.
The addition of fat will also help to subdue the bitterness of the collard greens. Saute the greens in butter, add coconut milk, or go rogue and make a collard green peanut saute!
Cooking is about experimentation, so get out there and try new things.