Got the Wintertime “Greens”?

frozen lettuce

Chances are that you don’t have much to harvest from your garden these days, but if you do, then there’s a good chance it’s at least somewhat green and leafy. Lettuce, bok choy, spinach, turnip greens, collards, and swiss chard are among the hearty plants that are able to thrive in cooler temperatures. If your local temperatures have been too cold even for those crops, then head to a grocery store and keep your eyes open for special deals and seasonal sales in the produce department. Keep in mind however that lettuce has such a high water content and such thin tissue that it does not tend to preserve well using any method.

As mentioned in the recent New Year’s posting, Spinach and Other Greens can be canned, using a pressure canner. You might be amazed at the quantity you can fit in each jar once the tender leaves have wilted from being steamed – a canner load of 9 pints requires about 18 pounds of greens, and a canner load of 7 quarts holds an impressive average of 28 pounds! Note: These “other greens” should be greens with a similar texture to spinach, and not very hard, firm leaves such as cabbage.

Freezing greens is an option, but is recommended only for use as a cooked vegetable. This is for the sake of quality — their cells are full of water and those thin cell walls will burst when that water freezes and expands. So, rather than making a salad with frozen greens, try using them in casseroles, lasagna, soups, sauces and dips. Also, keep in in mind that leafy greens will heat more evenly if thawed before cooking. The water blanching time for most Greens, including Spinach, is 2 minutes, but water blanch collards for 1 additional minute (blanch time: 3 minutes) and Cabbage for 30 seconds less (blanch time: 1½ minutes). Blanching is important to slow or stop destructive enzyme action, clean surfaces, brighten color, help retain vitamins, and make the vegetables easier to pack into jars. Specific directions for water blanching are available here.

Blancher

Perhaps the least common method of preserving greens is to dry them. However, dehydrating can be a useful method for use in baked goods, soups, and casseroles. Dried greens may even be ground into flour to sneak some extra nutrients into breads, pancakes, and cookies. As with freezing, blanching is required. Cabbage can be water blanched for 1½ to 2 minutes or steam blanched for 2½ to 3 minutes or until wilted. Other greens can be water blanched for 1½ minutes or steam blanched for 2 to 2½ minutes or until wilted. Read this publication from the University of Georgia for more information about Drying Fruits and Vegetables.

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2 thoughts on “Got the Wintertime “Greens”?

  1. Sheila

    Can cabbage be pressure canned? I’m not sure if it’s included in the “Spinach and Other Greens” category. Thank you.

    1. nchfp Post author

      I’m so sorry for our delay in responding to your blog comment.

      Cabbage tends to discolor and intensify in flavor when canned, so it is not recommended for canning due to quality issues (unless used for sauerkraut​ or in one of our canned relish recipes). Also, because it is more dense and rigid than greens such as spinach, the process time for Spinach and Other Greens would not necessarily be sufficient heat treatment to destroy pathogens and the final product could be under-processed. As you probably know, low acid foods like cabbage are at risk of causing botulism, so we do not just guess at a process time – the risk is too great.

      So I’m sorry to disappoint, but we do not have a recommendation for home canning cabbage as is. We currently do not have the resources to conduct individual product testing, and we do not know of others looking to do so at this time.

      We do have recommendations for freezing cabbage and making sauerkraut on our website (go to http://nchfp.uga.edu/ and enter the term into the ‘Search’ link).

      You may also be interested in the publications ‘Using, Storing, and Preserving Cabbage’ from the University of Michigan ( http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/HNI09-Cabbage.pdf ) and ‘Backgrounder: Heat Processing of Home-Canned Foods’ from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (again, search the National Center website).

      You also had asked us in another message about pickling turnips, and I’m sorry, but we do not have recommendations for canning pickled turnips. We would not assume that they could be pickled and canned the same way as beets, and we do not recommend that you try to do so. There are, however, recommendations for pressure canning turnips from the Cooperative Extension Service that are the same as our recommendation in So Easy To Preserve, here: http://www.uaf.edu/files/ces/publications-db/catalog/hec/FNH-00463.pdf .

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