Putting up with each other: Blanching beet and cauliflower greens

Heads of cauliflower from our garden.

For a long time in our raised beds, some massive plants were growing.  Large, green, and leafy, their presence dominated the raised bed community.  (We all know people like that.)  All of us here at the Starship thought they were collards.  HA!  Foolish we were.  Ate them we did – steamed and sauteed as a side dish in our opulent dinners. One day, harvesting “collard greens” for our dinner, it became obvious how sorely misguided our assumptions about the identity of these leafy terrestrial dwellers were: bold, pale heads of cauliflower sprouted from the centers of these green garden beasts.  Like the good gardeners we try to be, we harvested the heads of cauliflower (our collection of cauliflower is pictured above.)  Post-cauliflower harvest, we were left with naught but the greens…which we obviously could not let go to waste!

So many beets (and beet greens)!

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, blanching and then freezing greens is an effective method to preserve leafy cooking greens like collards and spinach.  Throwing our abundance of beet greens (from the second harvest of our beets) in with the cauliflower greens, we followed this recipe for a 3-minute blanching time followed by cooling and freezing for greens.

First, we washed and chopped up our cauliflower and beet greens.  Once these greens were blanched, cooled and frozen, they would sit in baggies in our freezer as easy frozen-veggie additions to soups and other wintertime dinner dishes.

Greens blanching

With this in mind, we tried to make sure they were relatively dirt-free (although, some dirt in our diet is probably pretty good for us), and chopped up into strips and bite-sized pieces.  We removed the thickest parts of the stems, at the base of the leaves.  While we washed and chopped the greens, we waited for a big pot of water to boil on the stove.  Once the water was ready and the greens were prepared, the next step was the actual blanching process.

Why blanch?  Blanching is a a process in which foods are boiled in water for a short time, and then submerged in cold water to rapidly cool them and halt the cooking process.  Blanching softens and partially cooks vegetables.  It preserves their texture and flavor for later cooking, and also helps to maintain their nutritional value.

After leaving our first batch of greens (a few big handfuls) in the boiling water for the requisite 3 minutes, we rapidly removed them and placed them in a collender (actually, technically a steamer, but here at the Starship we like to pretend) which we submerged in a sink filled with cold water, also for three minutes.  As soon as one batch of greens was blanched and was cooling in the sink, we added a few more handfuls of raw chopped greens to our pot of boiling water.

Blanched greens cooling in our kitchen sink full of cold water.

Blanched and cooled greens waiting to be wrung out and frozen.

After cooling off for three minutes, each batch of greens needed to lose a lot of liquid before it could be packed into plastic freezer bags and frozen.  We removed the greens from their cold water bath and wrung them out in handfuls, squeezing them until nearly all of the removable excess liquid was gone.  Next, we packed these handfuls into plastic freezer bags.  Our objective was to fit as many greens as possible into each bag, leaving as little air space as possible.  Before sealing each bag, we were careful to squeeze out as much excess air as possible.

Squeezing the greens to remove excess liquid.

Altogether, we processed somewhere between 6-8 quarts (24-32 cups) of raw beet and cauliflower greens.  (Our measurements were imprecise and a bit haphazard during the process.)  This yielded about 2.5 tightly packed quart-sized freezer bags of blanched greens.

Greens after being wrung out, getting packed in the bag.