It’s that time of year when the garden is starting to overflow with goodness. The tomato plants are tall and we are starting to see some red beauties ripen up. We have already harvested and pulled out the green bean plants (and our fridge is jammed with dilly beans). Our jalapenos are taking off and our bell peppers are growing slow and steady. We have snuck a few carrots to taste test and they will be ready in a week or so. The snap peas didn’t last long with daily Lyla raids. Our broccoli is coming in quite nicely. We’ve enjoyed many, many salads from our spicy greens. Aaaaand we have some decorative gourds growing beautifully, which is funny, because we didn’t plant gourds this year. Huh.
Also, our kale. Looks. Fabulous. The only problem is that there is so much of it that comes ready at once. Our main use of kale in our house is adding it to smoothies, so I wanted to figure out a good way to preserve and freeze our kale so that it was easy to pop in a smoothie concoction. Have you checked out Lyla’s favorite smoothie recipe?
Harvesting kale is simple. When the leaves are about the size of your hand, they are ready (they are even tasty when the leaves are young and tender). Use a scissors to cut the stem or snap the stem with your hand just below the leaf. Be sure to choose bottom leaves to harvest and do not pull out the entire plant. Your kale will keep showing you love with more growth throughout the summer and into fall. It can even withstand some frost. The best time of day to harvest kale (and all greens for that matter) is early in the morning.
- Begin by boiling a large pot of water on the stove.
- Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set it on the counter next to the pot on the stove.
- Set up a drying station for your kale with kitchen towels or paper towel next to the ice bath.
- Place a few ice cube trays next to the drying station.
- Prepare the kale by removing the thick stem in the leaves. I just ripped it out by hand. Rip the leaves into small pieces. I’m not too worried about size, but keep size in mind depending on recipes in which you might use the kale.
- Wash the kale, either by submerging it in a large bowl of water or by rinsing it in a colander.
- Once the water is boiling, add the kale to the pot of boiling water.
- Remove the kale after 2 ½ to 3 minutes with a slotted spoon (a pasta scooper spoon thing works well for this) and submerge the kale immediately in the ice bath to stop the cooking process. This process is called blanching and it prepares the kale for freezing by stopping enzyme actions that cause a loss of texture, flavor, and color. Your kale cook time starts when the kale is submerged, not when the water returns to a boil.
- Using the same slotted spoon, move the kale from the ice bath to your drying station. For this freezing method it’s not necessary to get the kale super dry, just remove as much water as you can on the towels.
- Push small handfuls of kale to almost the top of each ice cube hole.
- Put the trays in the freezer for about 4 hours or until the kale is completely frozen. Pop the kale out of the tray and store in a freezer bag.
I harvested so much kale that I repeated the steps above many times because it sure wasn’t all going to fit in one pot. Go ahead and reuse the water for multiple boiling sessions. I harvested a very large bag of kale and ended up with two ice cube trays of frozen kale. It definitely becomes more compact when it’s been blanched and has wilted.
These small servings of kale are perfect to toss in smoothies, soups, stews, and pasta dishes. I actually think that a smoothie blended with blanched, frozen kale turns out better than using fresh – with frozen kale you lose the grittiness.
How do you use kale you’ve preserved from the farmers’ market or your summer garden?