Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Freezing Dandelions

As we were out in the yard this weekend, seeking some kind of gardening activity that didn't require digging in the still-too-wet-for-planting dirt, we decided it was time to weed under the chicken tractor row cover that was protecting our overwintered swiss chard and garlic.  The row cover is slightly wider than the garden bed, which meant that immediately inside the walls was a tall, lush layer of grass and dandelions.

Some of the dandelion flower stalks were a full two feet long, and the leaves were approaching a size that would make romaine lettuce jealous.  Those huge dandelion leaves, which grew much faster than their counterparts outside of the mini greenhouse, were naturally less bitter because the plant focuses more on biomass production than defense systems (in our minds, anyway).  Which is all another way of saying that, even though they were more than we'd need for this week's meals, they'd be a real shame to waste!  Why don't we try freezing some to save for later?

A quick search of the internets reveals that, of course, we're not the first folks to formulate such a plan.  It turns out that blanching the greens just like spinach, chard, collards, or other things normal people eat, works just as well with dandy greens (although maybe we don't even need to blanch them before freezing).  Here's a brief rundown of our new protocol for preserving one of the most exciting parts of spring.

We rinsed all the dirt (of which there wasn't much) and dandelion seeds (of which there were a lot) off the greens, then coarsely chopped them and set them soaking in a bowl of water.  (Even though the plants had already gone to seed, chopping and soaking the leaves takes the bitterness down to an acceptable level.)  We usually soak twice with a change of water in between, and usually for half an hour per soak, although the second soak went overnight on this particular batch.

Then we drained off the water and transferred the greens into one of these-type pots, with a big pasta insert.  The outer pot has a couple inches of boiling water in it, and we steam blanched the dandy greens in two batches of about a half pound each, for three minutes each.

Steam away, little dandies! (We took off the cover to take the picture.)

Then we quenched in cold water for a minute or two...

...and transferred the chilled greens to a salad spinner to get most of the residual water out.  Just sitting in the strainer basket does a pretty good job, but actually spinning them really gets 'er done.

We put them in freezer baggies, and now they're ready to hibernate!  What's the easiest way to get the residual air out of the bags?  We seal them most of the way across, push most of the air out by hand, then press the unsealed inch or so to our lips and suck the rest out like reverse CPR.  While still applying suction, we seal the bag the rest of the way across.  Don't tell the NCHFP

Even though we froze the whole batch, we still wanted some for this week.  So almost as soon as they were frozen, we took one bag out and made a quiche, which also incorporated some overwintered green onions, dried tomatoes from last summer, and some frozen sorrel from last weekend

As a point of reference, the green stuff in the lower left part of the slice is some of the dandy greens (mostly leaf stems), and the top and right pieces of green are the sorrel. The texture of both types of greens were pretty good, so in addition to the blanched and tasty frozen dandies, it looks like just sticking the sorrel in the freezer works pretty well.

How do you preserve your dandelion greens?