Toward the end of the summer, I start to get anxiety about the inevitable diminuendo of fresh food, namely greens! As a result, the contents of my freezer start to grow. This week: parsley and beet greens.
With a very healthy bunch (or two or three) of parsley, separate the leaves from the stems. Rinse the leaves thoroughly in water, and squeeze, yes squeeze, the excess water out of your green pulp. Spread the parsley on dry towels. Pat dry with another towel, and leave to air dry, turning and spreading repeatedly. A trick I learned from my farmer mentor, Annie Farrell, is to dry the leaves with a fan. Baddabing! Speeds things along. A salad spinner would also be a fine tool.
When dry, chop finely and store in a ziplock bag. Try to squeeze out excess air from the bag. It’s a good habit to mark your stored goods with the date, just in case it lurks in the freezer until after winter.
I do this for most herbs that can’t be dried: chives, the green shoots of spring onions, cilantro. I’m fairly sure basil would blacken, which is why Pesto is your best bet.
While your herbs are drying you can get started with your greens. This process applies to any leafy greens: spinach, kale, chard, etc. Here we’ll store beet greens – those delectable, nutritious leaves we usually toss for useless sod.
Put a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. In the meantime, strip your stems, and separate leaves. Wash thoroughly. Set stems aside to throw into a sauté or soup stock. When the water is boiling, add the leaves – we’re going to blanch them. This means flash-cooking, which preserves the nutrients and prepares for eating or better storage. Cook leaves for 1-2 minutes, or until bright green and tender. Not too long! You will really cook them when you defrost for a winter meal.
When cooked, dry in a colander, on a towel, or in a salad spinner. You don’t need to dry thoroughly, just to shake off excess water.
Now, this is one of Mamma’s tricks, after a few seasons of trial and error. Place the greens on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Form a tightly sealed roll. It’s always best to double bag your goods. Both my beets and parsley go into another larger ziplock to stave off freezer burn. I wash and recycle ziplocks again and again, until they’re dead.