Freezing Greens for the Winter

So I spent most of yesterday building one of those straw umbrellas.  You know the type.  You see them in the Caribbean or outside on the patios of your local Hooters bars.  They’re classy things.

I made mine out of Swiss Chard.

I’ve also fashioned 17 leisure suits, a hammock, 3 pup tents and a sort of wobbly fishing pole out of the stuff.

I have a lot of Swiss Chard.

If these were the olden days they would call me “Scurvy Sue” because people would walk for miles  to get my Swiss Chard to prevent scurvy.  As it is, they just call me Karen.  That insane woman on the corner who lost countless gardening tools and 3 cats to the Swiss Chard patch.  There might be a toddler in there too; I saw movement … but it could very well just be another  cat. Either way it’s making some God awful sounds.

All this and I still have enough  Swiss Chard to choke a dinosaur.  One of those ones with the really long necks.

I have therefore taken to freezing my Swiss Chard so I can enjoy it in the winter, when I don’t hate it so much.  It’s easy to do … way easier than canning, and doesn’t take much time at all.

All you have to do is blanch them (plunge in boiling water) then cool them.

I know a lot of you are thinking “But … I freeze stuff all the time without blanching it, and it’s fine“.  And you’re right.  It’s fine.  You know what else is fine?  A store bought cookie.  But does it compare to a warm, gooey, crisp around the edges homemade cookie?  No.  No it does not.

You need to blanch because blanching stops enzymes in their tracks.  Or at least slows them down. Enzymes are live and unless you stop them from doing what they do your vegetables will lose their flavour, colour and texture.  Boiling the vegetable for a couple of minutes slows down/stops the enzymes from working.  So you get brighter, tastier, better textured frozen vegetables.

The same process can be used for most greens like Kale, green beans, Spinach, Collard Greens and more.

It’s as simple as this …


How to Freeze Greens

Gather your greens.

Wash them.

Prep them (take tips off of green beans, slice stems out of Kale, Swiss Chard etc.)

Plunge them in boiling water for 2 minutes.  (3 minutes for Collard Greens)

Plunge them in ice water for the same amount of time.

Form them into bundles and freeze them. (either in baggies or with your Foodsaver)



Pick em.

Karen Bertelsen


Plunk em. 

Swiss Chard


 Cut the stems out of em.

Swiss Chard 2


Blanch em. (for 2 minutes)

Swiss Chard 3


Ice Bath em. (for 2 minutes)

Swiss Chard On Ice


Bundle em … then bag em.

Swiss Chard Bundles


I know.  Just like little Swiss brains.

And remember, even if you don’t grow any of this stuff you can still use this technique with fresh produce from farmer’s markets or roadside stands.  You’re way better off to freeze that stuff than to buy and eat the fresh imported stuff in the winter.

If you own a Foodaver (and you really should) you know that Foodsavering watery items is a struggle.  The vacuum sucks up the water and the bag doesn’t get a good seal on it.

A trick for using the Foodsaver with items like this with a really high moisture content is to freeze the bundles first and then Foodsaver them.

I do this freezing thing every so often with my green beans, beet tops and Swiss Chard.  Great results with not a lot of time or effort.

Unlike the patio umbrella.


  1. Katt says:

    Oh thank you! I planted sic Swiss chard thinking it might not be enough for my husband and I. Now I’ve run out of neighbors to give it to, ive done all my recipes twice (I’m even sick of the seared gnocchi in Parmesan broth with chard recipe). I will be doing this today

    • Karen says:

      It’s amazing how you can go from just a few swiss chard leaves to – omg …. there’s SO much swiss chard … it seems to happen overnight, lol. ~ karen!

  2. Brad Bigelow says:

    Haven’t seen harvest advice this useful since I read Mark Twain’s “How I Edited An Agricultural Paper”. Excellent observations on that pernicious weed “Chard”. Thank you.

  3. R Ondrak says:

    YOU…. are a brilliant writer… Thank you. I’m going to do this with my zucchini leaves, people. Free food growing out there…; waste not, want not!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks! I’m not a huge zucchini/squash/pumpkin leaf fan. Too prickly even after cooking with baking soda. Broccoli leaves I LOVE though! ~ karen

  4. Michelle G says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! However, on order to retain the most nutrients, we use the pressure cooker for our greens but never for future use. Is it possible pressure cook them quickly then shock and freeze instead of blanching?

  5. Amanda Rose says:

    1. It’s getting so big in my yard – too big to bother freezing? Will it be yucky?
    2. Would it be worth placing the blanched chard in a nut milk bag to drain/squeeze out excess liquid before freezing?
    3. Is there annnnny good use for the stems besides compost? The leaves are disliked by my family, but the stems are loathed.

  6. Monique says:

    I got a goegeous bunch of beets w/ leaves from one of my daughters today..

    Just did your pretty:) Thank you..this winter soups etc..

  7. I like what you are doing with your posts and your site. I use kale for my smoothies so if I blanch I will get more nutrients and since its frozen I won’t notice mushiness. Thanks for the encouraging words re blanching.
    And class act on responding to a person whose facts you don’t agree with. Nicely done. Carol

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Carol. Most times I just tell people to shut up so I must have been feeling generous that day, lol. Blanched vegetables still aren’t my favourite to eat, but I like knowing I have some green stuff in the freezer through the winter when I don’t feel like going to the grocery store for green stuff. ;) ~ karen!

  8. Wes Newport Sr says:

    I am so tired of repeated bad advice. You DO NOT need to blanch vegetables prior to freezing. Any enzymatic activity will be stopped by the freezer with less loss of quality than with the same vegetable blanched. This is another example of people just repeating what they have heard. Please check the science!

    Regarding Swiss Chard, I love it, chopped (stem and all) then sauteed with a little olive oil, drizzle with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

    • Karen says:

      Well Wes. I hate to say it but unless you’ve spent a great deal of time in the laboratory, you are indeed doing what you’re accusing others of. You’re repeating what you’ve heard. As far as blanching, for me personally the number one reason is killing bacteria etc. You’ll notice I managed to respond to you without resorting to all caps, condescension or an heir of superiority. ~ karen

  9. Ellen says:

    Hi Karen – dunno if you’ll get this cuz this is an old post. I’d like to know about the texture of the frozen then used greens. My husband is very picky about texture. He hated cooked spinach til I started flash sauté-ing it. He cannot stand mushy, so there’s no point freezing greens if they will end up mushy.
    Thank you very much – I trust you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen – They will end up mush, lol. There’s no way around it with greens usually because once you blanch them and then freeze them well .. they just get mushy. However … I’ve been told there are several varieties of green beans that don’t get mushy. Lazy Housewife beans for one, which are an heirloom variety. Sorry for the bad news. On the upside, you may still be able to use the greens for soups and stuff. :( ~ karen!

  10. Lucy says:

    Another great way to serve swiss chard is to sauté it in olive oil with some cut up garlic and sprinkle with salt and a bit of chile peppers. Then serve them as a side dish with meats/eggs or fish. You can also sprinkle some parmesan cheese or small chunks at the end of the cooking process. I like using pecorino pepato. A sharp Italian cheese with black peppers. I have also frozen it after partially cooking it this way. Yummy.

  11. Suzanne in Austin, Texas says:

    What thoughts do you have for the tons of basil I have growing? Besides making a boatload of pesto…Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Suzanne – Funny you should ask! I have a post coming up (I can’t remember if it’s this week or next … on what to do with basil!) ~ karen

  12. Arlene says:

    Read this too late, so sad. The first hard frost on the Prairies tonight will be freezing my Swiss Chard in the garden. Boo hoo.

    • Karen says:

      Arlene – Rip it out! Run outside and rip it out! Right now! Wait. Your swiss chard should be O.K. in the frost. It’s pretty hardy. I think you’ll be fine. :) ~ karen

  13. Kasia says:

    Hi Karen,
    Just a little fyi – enzymes are not “living”. They can be “active”, and they can be denatured, rendering them inactive, but they are not a living thing.

    Just had to throw that out there, for whatever it’s worth. The science teacher in me, sorry!

  14. Gayla T says:

    That picture looks for all the world like you are out in the middle of the night, in your nightgown, picking your arms full of swiss chard. If this is what it looks like, you need another vacation. You know how I’ve ragged you about taking a vacation every month but if that’s your nightgown, you do need one this month. I’m seriously worried about you now. I mean really! Can I have your mom’s phone numer…..or the fella’s. Help is on the way, honey.

    • Karen says:

      That’s a dress, LOL! A very comfortable one. What with it resembling a nightgown. However, I must admit I go out into the garden in my p’jamas all the time. Day or night. Weekday or weekend. My neighbours really wouldn’t bat an eye if I went out in the garden wearing a Superhero costume. They’re used to me. As is my mother. :) ~ karen!

  15. Cheryl says:

    I had no idea you could freeze Swiss Chard. If I had known that–I WOULDN’T HAVE EATEN SWISS CHARD EVERY DAY FOR LUNCH FOR THE PAST 3 WEEKS!!!!@!!!
    Now I know . . . a thank you is in order . . . unfortunately, out of sheer desperation and a lack of culinary creativity, I yanked all my Swiss Chard plants out by their roots yesterday and ate them!!!!!!

  16. Tricia Rose says:

    You cut out the stems? They’re the prettiest bit!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    And blanching is important because raw greens (spinach kale chard etc) contain oxalic acid, an anti-nutrient, which prevents the absorption of calcium etc. I was just harvesting my chard today, too. We Ontarians know the F word (frost) is coming soon!

    • Karen says:

      :( I refuse to believe. NO. NO FROST. Not until the very end of October. I’ll be running out and covering up my plants with plastic and sheets and duvets and anything else I can find. ~ karen!

  18. Oh damnit. I already froze all my beans. Wash, snip, bag. Next time!

  19. sera says:

    Karen, you’re a genius! I hope I’ll have a freezer by the drop dead date for harvesting my kale. My mom tells me I can freeze roasted tomatoes too. As soon as I get my stove hooked up…

    • Karen says:

      LOL! I thought just having to use a bar fridge was a struggle. (broken fridge … still not replaced) ~ karen!

      • sera says:

        You still haven’t replaced the fridge? We’re remodeling our kitchen and that seemed to be the easiest decision my husband made – new fridge. Despite having a perfectly good one. But, now I’ll have a regular size back-up freezer/wine fridge. Supposing we ever finish the kitchen… We have 16 people coming for thanksgiving dinner, so…

        • Karen says:

          Me too, LOL! I don’t know WHAT I’m gonna do. My problem is space. I want a 36″ stove, but if I get that, I have to get a narrower than normal fridge which is hard to come by. ~ k!

        • sera says:

          We planned our kitchen to have a 36″ stove, and then went shopping. After much tearing out of hair over how expensive they are, we solved our problem by going pro-style in 30″. There are a lot of beautiful 30″ pro-style ranges that even have 5 burners. We chose a Blue Star. Frankly, I’m pretty sure I’ll never need 6 burners despite how much I love to cook. The only thing that really might have been handy is a wall oven, but even then, only on Thanksgiving. What kind of range do you want?

        • Karen says:

          Well .. funny you should mention Blue Star. My two top choices are Blue Star or Thermador. Thermador is more beautiful but I think I like the Blue Star burner more. Did you get a coloured blue Star or the plain one? ~ k

        • Sera says:

          Well, at the showroom, we fell in love with the red 36″ one. But. Reality set in and we went with stainless. Somehow it just seems classic and timeless. The thing we love about the blue star over everything else is the way the grates remove to hold a wok. Not that we are huge wok cookers, but my husband worked at a Japanese restaurant through high school and I think it may be the only way to get him to make dinner occasionally. Supposedly Thermador is very good too, but we just love the old fashioned look of the blue star. We are remodeling a 1905 house trying to stay with a modern classic look – hard woods and subway tile etc.
          Have you visited a showroom? Do let me know what you choose!

        • Karen says:

          I already know it would be stainless. :) The only other one I’d pick would be white, but … still … I’d go stainless. :) ~ k!

    • Jane says:

      As to crispy kale, it’s roasted after being tossed with olive oil and salt, can’t remember what temp or how long but google roasted kale. I’ve had it and loved it!!!

  20. Zoe says:

    Karen – so I went to a restaurant in Vancouver and they had the most AMAZING crispy Kale which I tried to replicate and was gross. Any ideas on how one might ‘fry’ kale without dipping it in a vat of oil which obviously they have and I don’t. I stir fried it and i did not get the desired effect

    • mothership says:

      massage the leaves with olive oil (yes get in there & rub the leaves with the oil) & spread in single layer on cookie sheet, s&p to taste, & roast… can’t remember temperature… prob anywhere from 350-400… take out when crispy!

  21. Zoe says:

    Does this work for basil?

  22. Dawna Jones says:

    Karen I don’t know how you have the patience,I’ll just take my chance and eat the imported stuff and let you know in the next few months what weird thing I’m growing out of my body parts because of it!

  23. Krista Wilkinson says:

    I’ve been growing swiss chard for years, never eaten it because it never grows bigger than 10 inches. Seattle area, it is purely ornamental, so jealous

  24. Great tips! I get CSA veggies every week and sometimes don’t know what to do with everything. I’ve frozen herbs before, but never greens. Thanks so much!

  25. Kelly says:

    Okay, okay, you have now convinced me to give it a try. I love Swiss Chard and have a lot. But I don’t like fiddling around, blanching, cooling. Lets just pick, rinse, bag and throw in the freezer. Your pictures make it look relatively easy. Thanks.

  26. Amanda Pedro says:

    You can use Chard in Caldo Vere also. Here’s Canadian Living’s rendition.

    We just boil potatoes until mushy, throw in the greens (BTW, they have to be thinly sliced. We roll a few leaves together and thinly slice on the cutting board. Very thin. Thinner than you think)
    At the table you can add the chorizo and olive oil. Sometimes, we slice the chorizo and toast it in the toaster oven before adding to the soup.

    Just in case you need a new way to digest them.

  27. jackie says:

    I do this with my fabulous kale, but swiss chard, to me, tastes like snot. Some love it, but I couldn’t be bothered to freeze snot yech! Still, I ended up throwing out all the turnip greens (mistake to freeze in the first place) and my beloved kale because defrosted greens just didn’t appeal all winter. I had to buy em instead fresh, only way I’d eat them. Whoops!

  28. White says:

    I’m wondering why you “bundle” the chard. I make flat stacks. Makes better use of freezer space, and the stacks can be cut up to suitable size/shape while still frozen. Thus, you can easily get very thin ribbons if desired. Just seems to give more options for how to use that bounty.

    • Karen says:

      White – I bundle it into servings of 2. I don’t ever slice my chard into thin ribbons so it works for me. I sautee the whole leaves. I also bundle it because it allows me to squeeze a tiny bit of the water out of it. I just gather up into my palms, squish it a bit then lay it down. But if you want to make flat stacks because that works better for you, go to it! :) ~ karen

  29. Brit says:

    You need chickens. . .chickens LOVE chard. :)

  30. Ruth says:

    Is it weird that I really want to see the patio umbrella? :D

    By the way, I tried buying seeds from your friend at Cubits to send to a friend who was coming here from Toronto, and PayPal kept switching the shipping address to match my billing address, so I gave up and never did get my seeds (If I have to pay for shipping, I will have to purchase far less seeds… yes, the budget demands it). I did try contacting the owner, but I never did get a response. :((((((

    • Karen says:

      Huh. That’s odd. Laura’s usually really good about replying. However in the past few months 2 things have happened. Her barn blew apart and she gave birth. At least I think she gave birth. Could have been one of those two things that interfered. I’ll email her and make sure she got your email. ~ karen

      • Ruth says:

        Okay. I used the ‘Contact’ form on the website. Are the seeds only available online or does she have a shop where folk can just pick up stuff?

        Giving birth (as well as the resulting cuteness overdose) may very well be the intervening factor. A barn explosion can’t possibly compete…. :)

  31. JeanB says:

    Collards are sweeter if you let the first frost hit them. (My daddy taught me that!)

  32. Ann says:

    Oh, I still forgot something. I have one of those jar adapters that let me vacuum out the air from jars. So I do that just the same as I would have with the bags. Also, you could prefreeze anything watery. I also find the jars stack nicely in my freezer and can be thawed nicely in a bowl of cold water if you are in a hurry to use them. Cause most of the time, I forget to get my veggies out the freezer before I need them and always seem to need to thaw them fast.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Answered my question. I have that same device on my Foodsaver! Good idea. Can’t wait to try it with the rest of my beet tops! Never would have thought to freeze my greens in a jar. Thx. ~ karen

  33. Ann says:

    Oh, Oh, I get to be the first and the second poster today!!

    I forgot to mention, I rarely vacuum freeze in bags anymore. I use the freezable glass mason jars. Filling a 2 cup one gives me just the right amount of veggies for DH and I for one meal.

    Now they have come up with a 3 cup version of the mason jar, perfect for asparagus, long green beans or just something you want a little more of. I am in love with the shape of that jar and bought 2 cases already.

    But freezing in jars helps eliminate using the plastic bags that are only good for one use which is just a very small way in which I help save the planet!!

    • Karen says:

      Ann – With all the air in there don’t things like greens get freezer burned though? I use jars for sauces and stuff in the freezer, but always foodsaver meat and veg. so they don’t get freezer burn. ~ k!

  34. Ann says:

    Great thought on the prefreezing watery items before vacuum sealing. Thanks for thinking of that one, Karen.

    Boy, I wish I liked Swiss Chard. But I do love Kale so I guess that counts. I have gotta get my seeds in the ground right now if I want to have some late this fall and winter.

  35. ev says:

    How will those brainy bundles be used? I have to say I thought Swiss chard was only good fresh. Soups I guess. We have grown chard in years past–will give it another try. Thanks, Karen

    • Karen says:

      ev – I use it in soups and sautée it in butter and olive oil then add shaved parmesan cheese on top at the end. ~ karen!

    • Esther says:

      i just made swiss chard and potato soup. To die for. So easy. And I’ll be able to make it with all my frozen packets

  36. Kim Merry says:

    Oh and totally off subject but I was watching the Cross fit games on tv last night, very entertaining!!!! I have never seen so many muscles in one place!!!

  37. Mary Kay says:

    Thanks Karen for the tip at the end – freeze your watery veggies then use the Foodsaver. We did broccoli one year and had a heck of time getting a good seal. Will definetly do this next time!!!

  38. Kim Merry says:

    I have never tried Swiss chard. How do you use it?

  39. Annie says:

    What is a food saver?
    ( don’t laugh)

  40. Oooh, we need to see a Foodsaver in action! I feel a video coming on Karen.

  41. Sue T. says:

    Hey Karen, Just curious but do you not eat the stems? I enjoy them as much as the leafy part.

    • Karen says:

      Sue – Not when they get to this size. Way too tough and bitter. The leaves are fine, but I cut out the stems. I also like using just the stems because then you can cook it all in one batch. If you use the stems then you have to add those first to cook them longer, then add the leaves. I only like the stems if they’re thin. ~ karen!

      • Ruth says:

        You could split the stems to make them thinner. Just a thought… but what do I know? No one grows chard here.

        I would have been the first to do so if I had gotten my seeds (see my comment below), but now my trailblazing will have to wait until my budget will agree with me.

  42. Judith says:

    I myself am a new convert to blanching – before that I was in the “never done it before and it’s been fine” group. But I’ve seen the light! The veggies really do look and taste better, and I guess they’ve kept more of their nutrients too.

  43. gloria says:

    What did you think you were going to do with that weenie little basket in photo one? A wheelbarrow is what you need for that gargantuan stuff. And yes it does look like Swiss brains, not that I’ve ever inspected any, but I can imagine. Or maybe some new green version of pod people.

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