Monday, July 6, 2009

The Great Spinach Harvest

Blatant Self-Promotion (BSP)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Preserving Food comes out tomorrow!! Yea and Yippee! I am so excited I could can a cucumber. (Actually, that's a very bad idea, but you understand.)

On With the Main Event

People seem to have a love-hate relationship with this vegetable. Often, it's the result of having it crammed down your little gullet when you were a child or having had the miserable experience of eating canned spinach. Feeding that gray, glutinous glob of stuff to your family should be a criminal offense.

Fresh, young spinach is tasty, and spinach you've put up yourself and frozen is as good as fresh, if you do it right!

True Grit

I plant a mix of spinach varieties. I like the different textures that the three main types of spinach give. There are Savoy, Semi-Savoy, and Smooth (also known as flat-leafed).

The crinklier the spinach leaf, the more sand or grit that gets trapped there. You definitely want all that sand out before you freeze this veggie. This means rinsing the leaves in several changes of cool water.

Swirl the leaves around, a few handfuls at a time. If you overcrowd the sink, you're going to make slow, slow progress. Once the water is completely free of grit, set the leaves aside and move on to the next few handfuls.

If you're using the leaves in a salad, a salad spinner is a nifty way to get rid of excess moisture. If you're going to freeze the leaves, you're ready to move on to the next step: Blanching.

Blanche DuBois or A Spinach Car Named Desire

Blanching time for young, tender leaves is 2 minutes. Place the leaves in rapidly boiling water, using a wooden spoon to make sure they get thoroughly submerged. Replace the lid. Begin timing when the water returns to a full boil.

Remove the spinach from the pot and plunge immediately into cold water. This stops the cooking process. When the leaves are cool (and it takes about as long to cool as it does to blanch), drain thoroughly in a colander.

I like soft freezer bags better than the stiffer ones with zippy closures. I can mold the bag to the food I'm freezing and squeeze out the excess air and moisture.

Recipe Suggestion

Add a pint of thawed, chopped spinach to the middle layer of your favorite lasagna recipe. It adds color, flavor, and texture and makes a family favorite even better!


  1. I love spinach in lasagna! Yum.

    My children love saying that they hate spinach...but they really love it and don't know it! I sneak it in all kinds of things.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Okay, I admit it. I learned to hate spinach as a kid. Absolutely true, and we did get fed spinach from a can. (You mean it comes in other forms?) However, since you have great credibility with me, I’ll ask my wife if maybe we can work it into a couple of menus. I’m willing to try to rectify my relationship with spinach. Will it meat (couldn't resist) me half-way.

    Best regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  3. Elizabeth - Thanks for the spinach affirmation. It makes all the difference in lasagna! Also is making me hungry and I just had breakfast. Sigh.

    Galen - Don't blame the victim! That lovely little veggie went kicking and screaming into that can! Free the leaves!!! Seriously, try some fresh spinach sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic. Work into this appreciation thing gradually.

  4. Congratulations on the book's release! It's a thrilling moment.

    Spinach is my second favorite veggie after asparagus. I like plain steamed fresh spinach, but also enjoy creamed spinach, especially with a touch of nutmeg. And I put fresh spinach in/on everything from vegetable soup, to stir fries, to pizza. Love it!

  5. How fabulous that your baby is launching. So very happy for you. What? There are three different kinds of spinach?
    Karen Walker

  6. Congratulations on the book release! Woot!! That is exciting. I'm one of those that was force fed spinach as a child so I really didn't want anything to do with it as an adult. Then, I discovered you didn't have to eat it cooked - it is wonderful in salads! (I'm that way with carrots too - can't stand them cooked but love them raw!)

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

  7. Raw food is the latest food trend! There are all kinds of raw food groups online. To think we have lived to see this!

  8. thanks all for the kind words on the launch. Now, do I need a bottle of bubbly?

  9. Hi Karen, I'm very excited for you. Enjoy that bottle of bubbly. I love spinach, just not steamed by itself. Great in omelettes too.

    Stephen Tremp
    Breakthrough Blogs

  10. My friend just taught me how to do this because I needed to clear the spinach out of my veg beds. She taught me to put it first in a strainer and then right into the freezer bag then put the bag in a bowl of ice water to cool. We measured about 6 cups at a time so I'll know how much is in each bag too. So easy! Going to do this with chard later.

  11. Christine, sounds great! It's good to share tips.


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~ I'm the author of Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen. If you're a WWII buff, you'll like it here!