Freezing Kale

Is kale still all the craze?  I was a little late to that party… too many hours in food service arranging the near-plastic green stuff around salad bars and catering trays. And even though I had conceded to eat it, my kale consumption was largely restricted to kale chips and a heartier version of Chard in my soups.

This spring I was sick, again.  I had been sick every other week all winter long.  And this spring when my grandmother died, a five-day migraine landed in my head, neck, and stomach.  My kind husband took the kids to our little farmer’s market that Saturday morning and came back with three big bags of greens.  One was full of fresh nettles, one of spinach and one of later winter kale.  I’m pretty friendly with the growers and we usually go together, so they asked where I was.  When he told them I was feeling under the weather, they loaded him up with hearty soul-feeding food.

I started eating that afternoon and I felt better almost immediately!  That food-medicine moment inspired me to plant kale in my garden a few weeks later.  I actually bought four starts from one of the same women at the market and I was harvesting a couple weeks later.  I love the look and texture of Tuscan Kale, but it isn’t as hearty as others, so I also planted some Russian Red.  I picked them a picked, and harvested until the flea beetles finally got them.

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Here are a couple of things that you should know about kale.

Kale grows like gangbusters.. until it doesn’t.  Ready to pick early in the spring. Continuous harvest from May to July.  At some point the sun or the bug will COMPLETELY decimate them.  Mine *literally* happened overnight.  Fortunately, I managed to get the last batch picked before it happened.  Don’t give up on them.  Most likely, they will bounce back in the fall.

There IS such a thing as too much kale. You know how you can only eat so much spinach before it totally grosses you out?  Kale’s the same way.  It’s really strong in flavor and nutrients, so you body only wants so much.  That’s no problem for dinner, but what about when you have four kale plants that are all ready to harvest and you are already sick of it?

Kale freezes and thaws really well.  This is the solution to both the aforementioned kale problems.  Pick it when it’s plentiful, eat what you want, save the rest for winter when you are in desperate need of some healthy, soupy goodness.

Freeze Kale How-To

Wash and trim your kale.  You can do this any quantity you want.  I pick off any bug-nibbled spots and I remove the toughs stems.

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Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Don’t salt it.  While you are waiting for that, also prepare a large bowl of ice water.  You’re going to QUICKLY blanch the kale, then drop it into the ice bath.  It’s important to have that ready.

Boil the kale for 2 minutes.

Boil the kale for 2 minutes.

Transfer it to the ice bath using a slotted spoon.  I had to do mine in two batches...

Transfer it to the ice bath using a slotted spoon. I had to do mine in two batches…

Once kale is cooled down, GENTLY squeeze it one handful at a time and get ready to dry it out.

Once kale is cooled down, GENTLY squeeze it one handful at a time and get ready to dry it out.

Before you pop it in the freezer, you need to dry the leaves a little.  You can use paper towels if you want, but I prefer a clean kitchen towel.

Spread the blanched kale leaves out in one layer on a clean towel.

Spread the blanched kale leaves out in one layer on a clean towel.

Gently, but firmly, roll up the towel like a sushi roll.  The water from the leaves will go into the towel.

Gently, but firmly, roll up the towel like a sushi roll. The water from the leaves will go into the towel.

When it is fully rolled up, push on it a little with your hand to squeeze that last little bit of moisture out of the kale leaves.

When it is fully rolled up, push on it a little with your hand to squeeze that last little bit of moisture out of the kale leaves.

Carefully unroll the towel Presto you have beautiful, dry, ready to freeze kale leaves.

Carefully unroll the towel Presto you have beautiful, dry, ready to freeze kale leaves.

The last step is to freeze them!  Take these dry leaves and spread them out in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  I have a silpat sheet on mine, but a piece of parchment or wax paper will do.  If you don’t put something down, these things will stick like glue to the aluminum.  Having a non-stick surface isn’t enough.

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Freeze them for an hour or so on the cookie sheet, then take them out and transfer them to a freezer bag – don’t cram them in there so tightly they start to break up.  Bring them out when you are ready for soup, stir fry, egg scramble, smoothie, whatever!

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