How to Preserve Spinach
I was gone for a week camping and getting in touch with nature and upon my return, my once manageable spinach crop was suddenly out of control! The whole garden was really pretty impressive but seriously, check out the ridiculous size of those spinach leaves! Spinach is one of the easiest vegetable greens to grow since it grows fast, it’ll grow in nearly any soil, and it grows in both cool and hot weather with adequate watering. This overabundance of spinach was not going to waste… though the chickens would have loved it if I decided to feed it ALL to them. They had to suffice with a small taste and some bok choy that had bolted. Preserving spinach can be done multiple ways so I’ll show you the 3 methods that I use to preserve spinach and other greens from my garden or that I find at the farmers market.
First things first. You need to clean your greens unless you like a little grit in your goodies. I give mine a good spray and cover them completely in water to swish around a few times so any soil from the garden gets rinsed off. Drain and repeat. You can do this multiple times if you happen to have a particular dirty batch (like right after a rainstorm when the mud seems to jump up onto every leaf). Next you’ll need to dry it off so it’s not completely soaked. For this, I use a salad spinner which works AMAZINGLY well. If you don’t have a spinner, you can lay them out on paper towels and pat dry.
Now that it’s clean, you can eat it fresh, of course, but this is all about preserving spinach so you’ll want to choose whether to freeze it or dry it.
Freezing Spinach as Leaves
The fastest and easiest way to preserve spinach is to freeze it direct from the garden. This can be done directly without blanching or by blanching first via a quick boil or a steam blanch. You can keep the water for making vegetable stock if desired.
To freeze it directly, you simply toss the leaves either whole or chopped into smaller pieces in a freezer proof bag and place it right in the freezer. Boom. Done.
Freezing without blanching will keep about 3-6 months. Keep in mind, any frozen and defrosted spinach will not be desirable to use in fresh salads. Only fresh spinach will work in salads but you could use it in any cooked dishes like pastas or spaghetti squash bakes, breakfast casserole, quiche, ricotta spinach artichoke dip, or soups, or smoothies!
If you wish it to last a little longer, you’ll want to blanch it. To do this, heat a pot of water to boiling and once boiling, submerge the spinach leaves (or use a steamer basket above the water and covered) for 1-2 minutes. Remove spinach from the water/steamer with a clean tongs and place directly into an ice bath to stop cooking. Remove spinach from the ice bath and drain in a colander or salad spinner. Then put into a freezer proof bag. Why blanch it? This will help keep the flavor, color and texture as well as cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms. It also makes it nice and brightly colored while preserving more of the vitamins present in the spinach. Because it stops the enzymes and cleanses it, freezing it after blanching allows for longer storage up to 9-12 months especially if vacuum sealed. Another bonus, blanched spinach shrinks up quite a bit so you can save freezer space as well.
Freezing Spinach as a Fresh Puree
Another way to freeze spinach is as ice cubes. This method is my preferred method for using in smoothies but also works great in soups. To do so, make a puree by adding about 5-6 cups of fresh spinach and 1/2-1 cup water to a blender and puree. Pour or spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, you can remove from the ice cube tray and place in a freezer proof bag or container. These will keep 3-6 months.
Dehydrating Spinach (Drying)
The last method I use to preserve spinach is to dehydrate the leaves and then process it into a crumble or powder. I do this with a food dehydrator but you could possibly do this in a very low temp oven. To dehydrate spinach, remove any large stem pieces and lay each leaf in a single layer on the drying trays. You can tear the leaves as needed to fill in the gaps or make them smaller. Then using the fresh herbs setting, dry the spinach 8 or more hours until it’s completely dried. Once dried, put the leaves in a food processor and pulse until nice and crumbly.
Use the dried spinach as a nutritious addition to meatballs, sprinkle on soups or salads, in smoothies or any other dish you wish to add a touch of green goodness.