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John Saltveit
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Hi Erica,
I have lots of leafy greens at various times: horseradish leaves during the growing season, leeks during the winter and spring, shotweed cress in late winter, curly mallow in summer and fall, scorzonera in spring, that I would love to preserve for other times of the year. What are your favorite ways of preserving leafy greens to maintain texture, flavor and nutrition?
Thanks,
John S
PDX OR
 
nancy sutton
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I know that Erica will get to your question, John, and I apologize for 'cutting in' here, but it brought to mind this book I found fascinating... including it's unusual preservation info... (and highly recommended by Steve Solomon
http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Your-Greens-Surprising-Homegrown/dp/0865717516/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444716769&sr=1-1&keywords=eat+your+greens+the+surprising+power+of+homegrown+leaf+crops
 
Erica Strauss
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John Saltveit wrote:Hi Erica,
I have lots of leafy greens at various times: horseradish leaves during the growing season, leeks during the winter and spring, shotweed cress in late winter, curly mallow in summer and fall, scorzonera in spring, that I would love to preserve for other times of the year. What are your favorite ways of preserving leafy greens to maintain texture, flavor and nutrition?
Thanks,
John S
PDX OR

Hi John, great question. I'll start with the caveat that anything I put the effort into preserving has to be worth it from a time perspective, and that means people in my family have to want to eat it whatever I've preserved out of season. And with two young kids, you can imagine that the more vital greens aren't always the first choice on the menu.

So for me personally, I try to eat many, many greens fresh, in season, and raw or lightly cooked. So - things like salads, sautees, soups and whatnot get made all year round with the greens that are available seasonally.

And honestly, since you are in PDX and do have the advantages of year round growing, I would advise that you start by eating as much as you can fresh when it is optimum for your climate.

So moving from that, I preserve my leafy greens, including herbs, in one of two ways. 1) drying on low temperature, and then making typically a kind of DIY "greens powder" that can be added to soups or smoothies. 2) freezing as a pesto, or pureed in a bit of olive oil. I really love herbal pestos, and they are very useful and versatile culinarily. In your situation, I would blend some of the more potent of these greens (like horseradish) with more mild greens like parsley for an herb paste. Add nuts if you like (OR hazelnuts are always amazing) and a bit of lemon to brighten the flavor. Then you can use that kind of paste year round with meat, beans, seafood or grains.
 
Erica Strauss
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nancy sutton wrote:I know that Erica will get to your question, John, and I apologize for 'cutting in' here, but it brought to mind this book I found fascinating... including it's unusual preservation info... (and highly recommended by Steve Solomon
http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Your-Greens-Surprising-Homegrown/dp/0865717516/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444716769&sr=1-1&keywords=eat+your+greens+the+surprising+power+of+homegrown+leaf+crops


Thanks Nancy - that looks like a great suggestion.
 
Dan Boone
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Erica Strauss wrote:...drying on low temperature, and then making typically a kind of DIY "greens powder" that can be added to soups or smoothies...


This summer I did this with the produce of my little chives patch. On two occasions I cut and stuffed as much as would fit in my five-tray dehydrator (leaving it in about four inch long pieces) and dried it down as crispy as it would go. Then I ran it through a little electric coffee grinder (I seem to find an endless supply of these for $1.00 at garage sales, so I abuse them terribly) to make chive powder. It all fit snugly in a single dollar-store 3.5 ounce plastic spice jar when I was done.
 
Honor Marie
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My top choice for greens preservation would be fermented grape leaves (to make dolmas) or dehydrated kale chips. I use plastic ziplock and the dessicant packets that come in various packaged foods to keep the kale chips dry.

If you have access to seaweed for harvesting, that's another good choice.

Frozen pesto, also good.
 
John Saltveit
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Hi Honor,
Do you ferment the grape leaves whole? I often eat and ferment then eat grape leaves, but I usually cut them up into small strips first, because they are rather fibrous, which I have to think is good for you. I've heard they have a lot of bio-available calcium.
John S
PDX OR
 
Honor Marie
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John Saltveit wrote:Hi Honor,
Do you ferment the grape leaves whole?


Yes, and I choose baby leaves for the softest texture.
 
Galadriel Freden
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This year I froze kale, cabbage, and chard. I chopped them up into quite narrow strips, and blanched the leaves in boiling water for about a minute; for chard leaves, I blanched the stems separately for about 2 minutes, and the leaves for about 30-60 seconds. Then I shocked them in a bowl of ice water for 1-2 minutes, or until very cold. I then scrunched them into a cup measure, squeezing out the extra water, and turned out onto a tray, in a nice little flattened ball. With the chard, I made a layer of leaves, then a layer of stems into the cup. I froze them overnight, then packed the balls into a freezer bag.

They're great for chucking into stews or casseroles, or as a vegetable side. They don't require much cooking time, and are in nice portion sizes. For our family of (vegetable-loving) three, two balls are just right. I'm glad I got some while I could, as the caterpillars devastated my kale this year, and what plants are still alive are only just beginning to put out tiny new growth.
 
Wynne Kelch
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Thank you for the ideas! This year I did the same as Galadriel and blanched and froze chard, a la the grocery bricks of spinach. We tried some with pasta last week; it was a little softer than fresh, but it still tasted good and was so easy to use. I also expanded my pesto repertoire.
 
Deb Pero
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I take the less than perfect kale leaves ( the ones with the grasshopper holes, etc.) And dried them till crisp. Crunch into bits, stuff into half gallon jars. These will be mixed in with chicken feed for winter green nutrients for the hens. The good leaves are dried and stored likewise, and go in our soups, etc.
 
Merry Teesdale
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We make spanakopita out of kale, chard, spinach and/or orache leaves and freeze them. Later, pop them in the oven for 30 min. for a wonderful lunch.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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I've had pretty good luck lactofermenting all sorts of greens. Anything in the brassica or cruciferous family works Awsome of course, but I've added nettles to the mix, any of the leafy herbs are great as adjuncts too. I did a pretty awesome kale/nettle kimchi style ferment with lots of garlic and pepers. John was right on that one...guys with Norwegian last names should lead the way!!!
 
kerri leach
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Dave, if you felt inclined to share your recipe for the brassica/nettle ferment I would love to try it. Thanks!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Here's the recipe that I posted on my blog:

"I went with a pretty basic recipe for the first go round, just to see how I like it:

6 cups kale cut into 1 inch wide strips with stems/ribs in tact
1 cup sliced garlic
1/2 large onion
hot peppers to taste
sea salt
1/4 cup starter culture (brine from previous ferment or whey)
I combined all the ingredients in a large bowl, mixed it all up and stuffed it down into a 2 liter glass jar with bale top. I added a little salt water brine to make sure everything was cover and let ‘er rip. (one note: because of the leafiness of the kale I read there was a tendency for it to get slimy, to counter this I used about 1 1/2 times the amount of salt I normally would. This seems to be helping so far) You can adjust the ingredients to what you like, and what you have on hand. I think some ginger or even horseradish would be good in there too, but I didn’t have any when I whipped this up."

To this I added about two cups of uncooked, coursely hopped nettles. It came out pretty darn good, and didn't last long! I'll probably whip up another batch before long.
 
Anna Tennis
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Dave - so fermenting takes the sting out? I had only heard of drying and cooking for doing that. But if lactofermenting works too, then watch out nettles!
 
kerri leach
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Awesome. We like it hot too. I may experiment with just how much nettle I can cram in (after what you have concocted which sound terrific) and make it as a winter critter tonic too. Thanks for sharing!
 
Julianna Holden Mohler
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Kale chips have been the rage, but collard leaves make equally good, or better, chips. We've used our coworkers as a sounding board, to see which they liked better. I also think one could do this with chard. We've made kohlrabi leaf chips too. It's really simple - just take your most favorite salad dressing and rub it into the leaves, try not to have it swimming in it. Make sure leaves are barely coated. Then dry.

My homemade mix is like a cheesy Italian dressing: oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, bell pepper, chives, parsley, salt, cayenne pepper (or other pepper, or hot pepper from the garden in its place), and nutrional yeast flakes (not brewer's yeast). If it tastes great on a salad, it will taste great on leafy greens in the dehydrator. We used up tons of greens this way because people ate them quickly, and begged for more.
 
John Saltveit
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I find that short fermenting really takes the bitter or extra fibrous out of vegetables. I will often ferment things like dandelion, grape leaf strips, Alexander's, plantain, collards, etc for only 4 days, just enough to turn some bitter or extra fibrous into sour. You get all the enzymes and antioxidants and you get all the probiotic for free.
John S
PDX OR
 
Nancy Callan
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I chop the stems and leaves then sautee them in a bit of oil (stems first to soften up). Then I freeze them. They are great for adding to soups/stews or putting on pizza. I find sautee is easier and quicker than blanching.
 
Erica Wisner
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We are in a dry, winter-snow-bound climate, so drying is an obvious choice here.
In a milder maritime climate, I would most likely preserve greens by using cold frames or cloches. We had grass and chickweed year-round in Oregon, more in the winter than the summer in fact, so preservation wasn't a big issue.
Seasonal stuff that is essential for certain dishes, like dill or basil, I will sometimes chop excess up and dry or freeze.
I try to keep herbs stocked this way - I'll grow or buy fresh when I can, and dry the rest of the bundle promptly (just hang it in the pantry, or set it on top of the dehydrator, I usually don't even turn it on in this climate except for wet stuff.

I also use dried nettles from a friend (I don't have them on my place... yet). That's a spring harvest, they last a long time. I use them for tea a few times a month, sprinkle a little in soups (especially if I'm having store bought canned soup that seems a little low in nutrients).
Seasonally, when I can get excess milk or feta cheese I will make spanikopita, with dried nettles and oregano and anything else I can get. The dried stuff fills out and helps soak up some of the excess moisture from whatever's in season.

I've also done frozen bundles of greens, especially the prolific spring ones like lamb's quarters and chickweed. They sometimes go in spanikopita or lasagna, but I also find that I waste a fair amount thawing it and then not getting to it fast enough. (The lamb's quarters generates an unpleasant-looking brown juice as it thaws which is hard for me to get over; a boiling rinse might help.)

Whatever you do, make sure to do it promptly, with healthy greens. Greens can spoil quickly, and as a low-acid food can harbor botulism and other dangerous anaerobic pathogens if not preserved properly. Boiling helps destroy most pathogens; if in doubt, throw it out, but just in case, bring frozen or canned greens to a boil before cooking.

I think the long history of dysentery, typhoid, and cholera in both London and the British colonies explains a lot about why the British boil every vegetable to a grey paste and consider it "comfort food" that way. (I am not saying anything about cities besides London because I don't know, not because they were any better off historically.)

Obviously, you lose a lot of the more delicate and lively enzymes and vitamins that way. My favorite alternative would be to keep a fresh garden as long as possible, it keeps better with its roots on. I will sometimes harvest with roots for fridge keeping, or keep the remaining plant in a glass of water with a paper towel around it.

For those who do ferments with greens, how do you reduce the risk of pathogens/spoilage? Any danger signs to recognize in a bad batch?
 
John Saltveit
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Everything in a sauerkraut lasts longer in winter than summer, and longer with more salt than with less salt. Some green leafies, like linden and grape leaves that are very fibrous, can last a long time in a sauerkraut. However, I find that most green leafies don't last long and will get slimy quickly. Most green leafies are in sauerkraut for me because their taste is too strong, like summer dandelions, Alexander's, lovage, turnip, or mustard greens. Some are in sauerkraut because their texture is a bit rough, like plantain or turnip greens.

The most important test for me in sauerkraut is the smell. If they smell right they are good. The regular sour smell of sauerkraut. All of my sauerkrauts have lots of different vegetables in them and though they are all chopped up, none are grated as finely as supermarket sauerkraut. The next best test for safety after that? If they are slimy, it's too late. Obviously, cactus pads, okra, and a few other vegies are naturally slimy, so that doesn't count. They are ok. Old slimy is usually blackish in color anyway.

As Sandor Katz says, fermented vegetables are safer than fresh vegetaables, because the acidic brine kills pathogens.

In my opinion, it is naturally easier to can fruit, due to their acidity, and to ferment vegetables, due to their natural presence of lacto bacillus bacteria on them.
John S
PDX OR
 
V Coblentz
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"My favorite alternative would be to keep a fresh garden as long as possible, it keeps better with its roots on."
I've got a great book that had a method of gardening that promotes gardening for as long as 10 months or off the year. The title is "Jeff Ball's 60 Minute Vegetable Garden". Got mine on Amazon.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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One preservation method that I do not see mentioned is freezing juice. If you have a high quality juicer (particularly one that auger crushes or presses), juice your greens and put them in a jar (or used glass bottle), but leave lots of room for expansion. Freeze on a diagonal to allow the expansion to take up the diagonal space towards the cap. The smaller the bottle, the faster it freezes, the more nutrients are preserved. The fastest method is to place a small bottles in a rack (so they are held on the diagonal) in the bottom of your deep freeze (where the coldest air settles). Freeze as soon as possible after juicing to preserve nutrients.

I had a Kraut business for a while, and may again. This preserves a certain aspect of the nature of the plant, but it is altered by the culture, and thus does not maintain it's original flavors, but takes on (adds) the flavor of the ferment. There is no way to preserve both flavor and texture, that I know of. Drying, freezing, kraut... anything you do to it will alter it's texture or flavor. If having the flavor and texture fully preserved is your goal, I would suggest fresh greens with a solarium, and cloches as part of your super zone 1 house.

Freezing: Certain herbs and leaves can freeze just fine by being packed into ziplock bags or glass or plastic jars and frozen, without blanching. Experiment. Spinach and cilantro come to mind. Their texture may not be perfect, but thrown into a sauce or soup it doesn't matter.

NETTLES Some have mentioned nettles, and some have asked if the nettles lose their sting with certain methods. Here's the thing about a nettle stinger: It is a very (I mean extremely) delicate tube containing a liquid acid that reacts with your skin when it brushes against you. If the nettle is frozen, fermented, dried, crushed or blended, fried, roasted, baked or sauteed, steamed, boiled, simmered, or steeped, or even quickly dipped in hot water (this last is how many NW coastal First Nations ate them), all those tubes become non effective. Experiment with it. Try dipping some in hot water and observe those little hairs. They basically disappear. Drying: same. They are completely folded down to nothing of substance. JUICED !!! no problems. The nettle acid in the tubes is such as small volume compared to the rest of the volume of the leaves and stems that once broken down with any of the above methods, it is pretty much completely neutralized (or at least diluted to the point of non harm), to my knowledge (which is decent) and experience (which is substantial enough).


My Experience: Without the hairs full of acid, the nettle is pure wholesome super healthy yum.


More on Nettles: For the record, I pick nettles bare handed. I do not expect or encourage other people to do this simply because some people react differently to different things. What I encourage is to Experiment carefully and gradually. I have developed a relationship with this plant, and I suggest anybody interested in Nettle, to do the same. Sit with the patch, get to know it, observing one plant on the edge really closely to see how it grows, and the whole patch to see who grows with it and what it likes to live with, thank it, praise it, and then enter the patch like it's a room in a very special place. Nettles and humans have a primordial sacred medicinal and food link. When I pick nettles, I pinch off only the top few sets of leaves, and only when the plants are less than a foot tall. Taller/older plants have a tendency towards having too much oxalic acid, which inhibits your digestion of calcium (which in turn-in it's absence-inhibits your digestion of many other things). The top leaves are the tenderest, and have the least stem (and the stem that exists is tender). As I pick-and I can pick bags and bags of them in one shot- the finger and thumb doing the work become dark with the resins and acids, but I do not get stung. I should not say that; more to the point, I do not react with irritating blisters like some people-what happens is that my hands feel like they have an aura of stimulation about them... that's as best as I can describe it. The tip of the finger and thumb get a bit tender and sore, but they do not blister or become super irritated. I pinch them off right below the nodes where small stems that lead up to the leaves form. Look at the plant and you will know what I mean.

And More: I also eat nettles raw. I know, most of you think that's insane, but here's the method: I pick a top. I observe it. It has hairs on the stem and on the underside of the leaves. I take one of the larger lower leaves carefully by the edges of the leaf, and gently curl it a bit so that the bottom is cupped upwards (hairs up) upside down, and then gently and carefully take the entire rest of the nettle top and fold it into (and using the) upturned leaf until you have a little green 'cigar'. I place this tightly rolled full leaf nettle cigar in my back molars on one side of my mouth and carefully chew it until I'm sure that the stingers must be crushed and then I allow it to be eaten up by the rest of my mouth. YUM. The juicer eliminates the fear and makes quick work of many nettle tops into high quality and super nutritious dark liquid green glory. Put in jars or bottles as described at the beginning of this post! !!!
 
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