Preserving the harvest – spinach
We always seem to have too much spinach in our winter vegetable patch. Although one plant produces more than enough for our needs, it is hard to resist planting more of this attractive, delicious, nutritious and prolific green. In early spring, when the weather starts to warm up, spinach tends go to seed and we do not grow spinach during summer because it requires large amounts of water. We still enjoy the occasional spinach-based meal in summer, and we can do this by preserving some of our surplus.
I pick the leaves in the early morning before sunrise and wash them in a bowl filled with rain water. Lots of little critters come rushing out at this stage, so this step is best done outside. The water and critters can then easily get tipped straight back into the garden.
The wet leaves are then torn by hand and placed in a covered pan over a low heat for about 5 minutes. There is no need to add extra water – the water left over on the leaves after washing them is sufficient. The spinach will reduce to about one fifth of its original volume. It is then removed from the pan and allowed to cool. The next batch can go in the pan, and so on.
When the spinach is quite cool, it can be scooped into glass jars and frozen. I use medium-size jars, filled to about three quarters and store these in the freezer until fresh spinach is once again growing in the garden –in about 6 months. Depending on the number of people you cook for, you may want to use smaller or larger jars. Plastic bags also make fine storage containers. Here, we aim to reduce our use of plastic as much as possible and have been storing and freezing food in recycled glass jars for many years.
When freezing, it is important to always leave a reasonable gap at the top of the jar as the content will expand during the freezing process. If you have never frozen food in glass jars and you are worried about the glass breaking, you may want to place your jars in a plastic bag until you feel more confident – this is what I did. We have had one breakage in the last 3 years and this was the result of over filling a jar. The jar did not shatter, it just cracked. The content will not spill as long as it remains frozen.
To defrost, take the jar out of the freezer 12 hours before cooking and leave on the lowest shelf in the fridge until ready to use. Here is a good recipe which can be made using frozen spinach – Spanakopita triangles – Chef in You . This recipe includes dill, spring onions and parsley – all these can easily be grown at home and also preserved by freezing. Simply pick in the early morning, wash and remove excess water without completely drying. Then chop and freeze – no cooking required.
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