When I imagine ancient vegetable options, I picture rough, hard-working hands piling leaves into willow baskets. Perhaps it’s that I’ve never, on any hike, seen anything resembling a voluptuous tomato, nor an eggplant, dangling purple and pickable. No, what I see are leaves, legions of them. Maybe it’s no wonder that leafy greens are chock-full of the vital nutrients humans need to thrive.
With a fall frost lurking, and the long, dormant winter months ahead, now is the time to amass your fortune of nutrition. Consider preserving chard, spinach, kale, beet greens, turnip greens, bok choi and broccoli leaves. It requires only steaming, blending and freezing, for which you’ll be rewarded with multitudes of vitamins and minerals all winter. Additionally, the leafy bits come out so small, so unthreatening (thinking here of children, and some husbands) that the thawed product blends seamlessly and indistinguishably into soups, omelets, casseroles, lasagna, pasta sauce, dips, smoothies and more.
This is not the sexiest food you will preserve. In fact, you may feel a little like Popeye’s mother, hunched over the blender with your heels and cigarette. It also feels like something Mrs. Piggle Wiggle might engineer for veggie-phobic kids: a cure in the sense of a delivery system of vital nutrients to children. But, really, it’s not just for children. We could all use a wallop of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, antioxidants, and lutein in our meals.
Wash greens. Steam until just wilted. Let cool a few minutes. Blend briefly in food processor or blender. If you blend too long, the greens turn to mush. Freeze in small portions. Ice cube trays work well. Transfer frozen portions to labeled freezer bags. Or pack into 4 – 8 oz jars (leave 1 inch headroom and add lids after freezing). To use, thaw on kitchen counter and toss into your favorite meal.