Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Freezing Kale

A reader recently asked if I froze the kale I used in a previous post for Chinese-style Kale with Tofu. Yes, I did, using kale harvested in late November right before I knew that the real snow was coming, was not likely to melt again, which finally put an end to our gardening for 2008.

Here is what I did to freeze kale:
• Put on a big pot of water to boil.
• Wash kale in sink of water then drain in a second sink or on a towel on the counter top.
• Tear or cut into 2 inch strips or manageable sizes (I did not freeze the big thick stems from the curly kale but smaller stems are ok).
• Fill sink with clean cold water, including as many ice cubes as you have on hand.
• Place the cut kale in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.
• Take kale out of pot with tongs, a colander, and/or slotted spoon.
• Put hot kale in cold water and swish around.
• Take kale out of water.
• Drain any excess water off greens (save for future soup broth!).
• Measure either 2 cups or 4 cups and place into freezer bags.
• Mark freezer bag with date and type of greens.
• Press any excess air out of bag and freeze.

I also did this exact procedure to freeze lamb's quarters (a very healthy and delicious weed!) in the spring. You can see from these photos that a huge bowl of cut or torn kale turns into 2 full quart bags of frozen kale. I expect to use this kale later this winter, either as yummy braised kale with many variety of seasonings or as an addition to soups, stews, stir-fry, filling for quesadillas, adding to frittatas, toppings for baked potatoes, etc, etc.

I have read on the web plus heard from the owners of Tantré Farm, a local farm and CSA, that blanching the kale is not necessary. Next spring when kale initially grows in abundance, I will try mincing some of the kale into very small pieces (small enough to add to hummus, or make into kale balls as just two ideas) and simply freeze these small pieces in a zip-lock bag while fresh. That way I can experiment and compare using frozen kale done by two different methods to decide which to do when I do the bulk of the kale freezing next fall.

One of my "tricks" as a long-term cancer survivor has been to always have future events to plan and/or look forward to. Now I am looking forward to two things: (1) spring to see which of our kale plants make it through a Michigan winter and give us an early gift of spring food without the work of planting and waiting with the ultimate gift of free seeds to start all over again, and (2) comparing the eating from two methods of freezing kale!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Anonymous said...

I blanch the kale before freezing, too, and will be interested in the results of your experiment.

My one experiment at leaving kale to overwinter produced some very heavy woody stalks for the compost pile the next spring. But I only grow lacinto kale and it may not be as hardy - I gather you grow the Russian kale (curly type)?

Anonymous said...

As I grew up in the Netherlands,Kale (boerenkool)was our weekly meal mashed in with the potatoes and bacon bits and topped of with a ring bologna.But in holland you do not use it till frost as that puts on a sweet flavor so I suggest pick it before the white little butterflies lay their eggs and create worms,and freeze without blanching.

litt said...

i steam kale, but also put it in my daily fresh squeezed veg.juice, along with carrots, beets, celery and lots of other vegs.
what's your opinion on the nutrition value of steamed kale vs. kale in the juice?

thanks for info

very interesting site.

-Sheldon Litt
Stockholm, Sweden

Diana Dyer said...

Keep checking back on my kale blog. I am going to post the results of a research study that looked at your question.

Diana Dyer said...

It took me a month but I posted the answer to your question on 11/21/09 "What's in kale and how to keep it there".

bird said...

I've got mountains of kale in my Toronto garden (it's now November), which is all re-sprouts from last year's plants. In the spring they started to resprout all along the stems, but they were a little ungainly so I just cut them back, leaving the first few sprouts on each stem. I thought I would need to buy more plants to keep harvesting through the fall, but it was fine. They did try and bolt but I just cut the flowers back and they didn't get bitter. The plants are as big or bigger than last year.

I've heard that kale is biennial, so I expect this is the last year I'll get out of them, but we'll see.

I'm planning on freezing them raw - just washing and tearing the leafy bits off the stems so the pieces aren't too big and they cook quickly in a soup. We'll see how it goes. I've seen what looks like raw, frozen kale at the grocery store (in loose bags, not blocks like spinach) so I'm hopeful!

Nancy Guppy, said...

My True Siberian Kale grows as a biennial in northern Ontario. So did the red kale. My comment about kale is I just wash it with cold water and freeze in zip lock bags. I don't blanch it. I slice frozen it as I am using it. I do the same with parsley, broccoli greens and cilantro. Works for me!!

Diana Dyer said...

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for stopping by my kale blog. I just love easy and nothing could be easier than just popping kale and other greens (even tomatoes) into a freezer bag.

Anonymous said...

I live in Michigan and leave Kale in my garden through the winter. As long as you can get it out from under the snow, fresh Kale with no hassle.

Renata said...

Hi Diana,
Did you try the no-blanch method? I'm going to present a quick talk about kale and I'd love to include the no-blanch tip.

Diana Dyer said...

Yes, I have tried the 'no blanch' easy easy easy method. It works fine. I can no longer remember what time frame I used the kale, but certainly within a few months. I don't know how well this would keep if frozen for 6 months to a year. I like the idea of trying to keep it going throughout the winter, either under snow, other mulch or in a cold frame/hoop house. Fresh is always best plus there are no additional energy costs to keep it frozen!

Renata said...

Thanks Diana!

Syl said...

Hi Diana, I am new to blogging (reading and writing them) and stumbled across you blog today when I did a search for freezing kale. You have a GREAT blog here and I am happy to have found it.

I am also from SE MI although I am in PA now. My garden is completely organic so when I went out to harvest some kale today to start freezing it I came across a caterpillar that I can not seem to identify. I want find out if they are good guys (butterflies) or bad guys (cabbage eaters) before I let them go on with their business.

If I can get a picture to you I will but in the mean time they have a black back with green sides, no fuzz, no antenna, no spikes, not very large (yet), etc.

Any thoughts on what is sharing my kale with me?
p.s. this is my second attempt to leave a comment... if you received the first one I am sorry for the second... I am very new to blogging ;-)

Diana Dyer said...

Hi Syl
Thanks for finding your way to my blog and I hope you stop by often. I suggest two things: 1) show your catepillar to other organic growers at your local farmers' market for their thoughts and/or 2) take it to your local Penn State Extension service office for their opinion.

I need to 'approve' comments before they are posted, which is why you did not see your comment right away. I keep spammers off my blog that way.

Hail kale!

Gow said...

Thank you Diana for your Kale Enthusiasm and Expertise!
My partner and I are long-time-kale-users (although he prefers eating kale that is hidden amongst other foods).
We grow lots of kale and several varieties, processing it many ways including overwintering (which is not always possible depending on the amount of snow and freezing temperatures).
My question is, what is the best way to store kale for use in our daily GREEN SMOOTHIES? I have found a bit of a compost taste in some frozen kale used in this raw blender drink but maybe I processed it incorrectly.
Thank you for a fabulous blog.
Gow from the Kootenays of British Columbia

Diana Dyer said...

Gow,I am not exactly sure what a 'compost taste' is to you, but I know that when kale tastes 'too strong', I have likely used too much of it in contrast to the other foods and their flavors. Personally, I will add 'some' to my morning smoothies, but not much. I like the taste of the fruits with carrots and may add cranberries to cut the sweetness, but adding kale adds its own array of flavors that can easily overwhelm others. I find that I prefer kale standing on its own as a vegetable in a recipe, and I also enjoy being being able to see it, enjoying its colors and leaf shapes. I don't feel I have adequately answered your question, but I hope my perspective helps a little bit. Thanks for stopping by my kale blog!

Anonymous said...

Hi. Regarding Gow's post, I have a kale smoothie rec. I LOVE kale in a smoothie! My favorite (& fastest) kale smoothie is kale + frozen bananas & frozen blueberries, + some (filtered) water & OJ.

The bananas help give a creamy texture, and the fruit being frozen makes for a cold & thick smoothie. To freeze bananas, I slice them lengthwise 2x and then slice down them, making coin slices. Then I spread the chopped bananas on a cookie sheet (my toaster oven pan, actually) and freeze for 3 hours or longer, then use a spatula to get them up and store in a Ziplock freezer bag; a qt.-size bag can hold 5-6 chopped bananas. Then it's super fast & easy to pop out however much banana I need later. (If you put them directly in the bag to freeze, they will freeze in a clump, which my blender can't handle, requiring more time from me to chop apart a frozen mass.)

Anyway.... the RECIPE: ~1/2 C. chopped & frozen bananas, 1/3--1/2 C. frozen blueberries, ~5-6 oz of water, & ~3oz of OJ. Blend these together. (Let the water/OJ sit on the frozen fruit for a minute or so before blending to help soften a little, if that's what your blender needs, or add a little more liquid if necessary.) Add ~1 C. of chopped fresh kale. (My faves are Lacinato or Red Russian.) Add more water or OJ if necessary for blender to process kale. This makes right around 16 oz. Great smoothie for those who are suspicious of kale/greens... you really don't even taste the kale here!

Haven't tried making a smoothie yet w/frozen kale, but am considering stocking up on local kale this weekend (to freeze) since it's my local farmers market last weekend for the season.

Michael said...

Hi, I hope this little bit of info helps. Blanching and then freezing Kale may work for some, but why not just freeze in all those important nutrients instead of loosing some or all of them to the blanching process. The nutritional value of Kale is higher when sauteed in broth (Beef) rather than blanched or steamed. The taste and high nutritional value of kale is why we eat it. Cherish what you grow, savoir the flavor and protect the nutritional value Kale has to offer you, and your health.
After sauteing, simply place kale and a small amount of broth into portion sized zip-lock (seal with no air) freezer bags and store up to 1 year. The flavor, colour, taste and nutritional value will all be intact. Bon Appetite!

Diana Dyer said...

Nice idea, Michael. Some may prefer a vegetable broth to beef, but I think the concept is the same. Thanks for sharing your method of preserving this delicious food for year round use.

Anonymous said...

Thank- you for your site and blog, so much good info.!
I am planning to grow copious amounts of kale this coming season, for now sourcing organic kale is a real challenge. Any thoughts on baby kales nutritional value? It is what I have easiest access to presently.
Also could you comment on juicing kale versus enjoying it in smoothies and steamed or sautéed?

Anya said...

We use kale for our green smoothies. We bought too much kale at the farmer's market. We just used our vitamix and a little water to chop the kale down to size. Then we poured into muffin tins and froze them. Pop them out and ziploc them. We put 4 discs in our smoothie today, but it could have used 5 or 6. Beats throwing it in the compost!!! Can't wait to read your blog! I will be linking to it from

Diana Dyer said...

Muffin tin kale 'blobs' must look beautiful! I shudder thinking about throwing kale into the compost pile - even our dog eats the toughest of the kale stalks if we don't use them in soup stock!

I hope to see you commenting again, and thanks for linking to your Facebook page. :)

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the stalks are not good to eat-too bitter. Do you use them? (I spend alot of time cutting the entire leaf off of the stem!) Dianne

Diana Dyer said...

If the leaf is young and tender, I eat/freeze the stalk. If it is old and tough, I compost it. I do add a few to make soup stock, but even more than 'a few' is too much of a Brassica flavor for vegetable soup stock.

Munkee said...

Hi Diana. Did you ever do your experiment? I need to store some kale for winter, and I am wondering whether to blanch and freeze or just chop and freeze. I suppose I am a bit of a lazy gardener and so I am hoping you will say chop and freeze! I also hate to think of leaching out the nutrients....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question about the stems. I am very excited about your site. Do you blog often on the site? I am growing 3 kinds of kale-dwarf blue curled, red Russian, and lacinato. Is one of these better than the others for freeZing? Thanks, Dianne from Nebraska

Adapted Physical Education Alaska said...

I just bought loads of Kale at a U-Pick Farm in Alaska and am going to try this freezing process in hopes of getting some veggies this winter!! Thanks.

KrystaSwygart said...

I have an omega jucier and have an overwhelming amount of kale. I was wondering if I could juice most of it and then freeze it to be used in my other juice combinations, with apples and carrots...any help you could give me would be very helpful!

Diana Dyer said...

I would suggest juicing and freezing a small amount first and then try using it to check on this technique before committing to juicing the entire batch of kale. I do love freezing kale for late winter use (kale is still fine fresh from the garden during the early winter months here). Good luck!
Diana Dyer

Kala said...

Amen! I love this! I'm in mid-Michigan and with frost on our kale the last few mornings I have no idea what to do with them! I'm going to try your method of wash and freeze, as well as chopping some first. Thank you for the post and go Wolverines! I'm an RN; organic mom, mother, and farmer; and own a natural baby store. I thank you for all you do and love to find others with similar thinking!

Diana Dyer said...

Frost will sweeten the kale so don't harvest it all yet! Too bad the UofMichigan didn't try to 'brand' some healthy food product using kale instead of the sickening (literally) new effort to promote a UofM Pop Tart - sigh.........which is why i love the "Kale to the Victors" logo for the new UofM Student Organic Garden so much! :)

Thanks for all you are doing to promote and advocate for healthy lives in your community.
What is your farm;s name?

Step, step, step!


Diana Dyer said...

The deer broke through our electric fence to get at my kale yesterday, so I am going to start freezing the kale they did not eat (they preferred the lacinato!) a bit earlier than I normally would. Because I have an injured foot right now due to a horse stepping on it, I cannot be up for long periods of time, thus this will be the year that I just go ahead and freeze my kale without blanching it. My husband is repairing the fence but I have a feeling that is not going to truly deter the deer now that they know what is in there!!

Unknown said...

Great post! I'm a grower in Minnesota and getting into growing lots of kales for the growing market. Thanks for the tips on freezing them. Definitely will be freezing a freezer full this fall.

Anonymous said...

I have been freezing kale for decades without blanching. I figured that since it tolerates freezing and thawing in the garden, and gets sweeter in the process, that keeping it in the freezer would be just the ticket. I just pick off the lower leaves, rinse if necessary, pop into a plastic grocery bag then into the freezer. Next day I just crush it in the bag, remove stems and transfer to a gallon zip bag. The frozen crumble kale can then be used in a multitude of ways. Every soup and smoothy gets a handful. Can't go wrong with kale!

Anonymous said...

Feb 2009? Wow, you were early to the Kale party. I only arrived about 6 months ago.

Here's my time saver, quick tip.

Instead of patting the kale dry with paper or dish towels, just use your salad spinner!