Freezing Spinach Leaves
My home is in Skagit county, which is known for how well spinach grows. In my own garden spinach does extremely well, and due to our temperate climate, I can easily grow two harvests per season. By freezing spinach leaves, I can preserve spinach from the garden for use throughout the year. This is a great way to incorporate fresh vegetables into your diet during winter time when fresh vegetables are expensive.
Freezing Spinach From The GardenThe first step to freezing spinach from the garden is to harvest your fresh spinach. This is best done before the spinach bolts. Bolting is when the plant sends up a main stem in order to flower. This often occurs in late spring when it starts to get really warm. It’s best to pick the spinach just before this occurs.
Some varieties of spinach have long stems before the main leaf. Most books recommend snipping off the stems, but I don’t see any issue with leaving them on if that is what you prefer. As long as the spinach is harvested before it bolts too far, the stems will be tender and not stringy.
Once a large batch of leaves have been picked and the stems removed (optional), then the larger leaves should be torn up to about the size of a quarter to a silver dollar (1″ to 2″ in diameter). The leaves can then be washed in a colander and dried in a spinner.
Before freezing spinach leaves, blanching spinach or steaming it is best in order to soften the cells. I prefer steaming as it accomplishes the same goal without as much loss in vitamins and minerals, however either is acceptable. Blanching spinach should last two minutes. Here is a great video and article on how to blanch leafy greens:
Freezing Spinach Without BlanchingFreezing spinach without blanching involves steaming the spinach leaves. The process isn’t too different from blanching. Bring the water up to a rapid boil, then use a steam rack to elevate the leaves above the water and steam for three minutes.
By keeping the leaves out of the water, they retain more vitamins and minerals than they would from blanching. At the end of the steaming, it is a good idea to rapidly cool the leaves in ice, just like in blanching. Keep in mind that the less time they spend in the water, the fewer vitamins they’ll leach.
How to Freeze Fresh SpinachPrior to freezing fresh spinach leaves, it’s best to vacuum seal them. This is not required – you can freeze spinach leaves in zip lock baggies or tupperware containers. However, the more oxygen you can remove from the packaging, the longer the spinach leaves will last and they’ll retain more nutrition. Oxygen, light, and heat are the three main enemies of long term food storage. The freezer will take care of the light and heat, but it’s up to you to remove as much oxygen as possible, prior to freezing.
Put 8 ounces of cooked spinach leaves from the garden into an appropriate container. Eight ounces of cooked spinach makes for a great side dish for two to a meal of meat, rice, or beans.