Creative Vegetable Gardener:Easily Freezing Swiss Chard: No-Cook Method


If you’re a chard lover you’ll definitely want to put “freezing swiss chard” on your fall to do list!  

There’s no doubt about it, chard is one of the most colorful vegetables you’ll grow in your garden. It comes in a rainbow of hues that aren’t found in many other vegetables – reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and even the stripes of the Peppermint Stick variety.

And because chard is incredibly easy to grow, you many find yourself with more than you can possibly eat fresh. After you drop off a few bundles to favorite neighbors and friends, it’s time to start turning your attention to preserving some for the deep dark winter.

If you’ve already perused my article on how to quickly freeze kale, the method for freezing swiss chard will be very familiar.

woman with swiss chard leaf

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You can start freezing swiss chard at any point during the growing season. You can freeze small leaves, big leaves…any sized leaves you’d like! I like to wait until the leaves are full size (or bigger! Check out the above photo of one of my monstrous leaves.) because then I need less leaves to fill up a quart size freezer bag.

Another important note that might blow your mind: you can feel free to mix kale, collards, chard and beet greens all in the same freezer bags. The method of preserving them is the same, so it’s perfectly fine (and often convenient) to combine them.

I personally use them interchangeably and I prefer when they’re mixed together so I get a variety of textures and nutrients. And honestly, once they’re cooked in a dish it’s very difficult to tell them apart.

Directions for Easily Freezing Swiss Chard

It’s true – you can freeze chard raw! I used to steam it first, but after a tip from a friend, I started freezing it raw.

I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two methods. So, of course, I opted for the path that gets the chard into the freezer quicker.

There really is such a thing as easy food preserving!

 

harvest of orange vegetables

Step 1: Harvest

You’ll be surprised how much chard you can fit into a quart freezer bag when you’re really packing it in. So, try to harvest as much as possible from your plants.

Make sure there are still a few leaves left on each plant so it can photosynthesize and keep growing. If it’s spring or summer there will be plenty of time for the plant to produce more leaves.

If it’s fall, plant growth will have slowed down considerably and new leaves won’t grow back as quickly. They might not grow at all if you live in a northern climate and it’s close to winter. So, consider how much chard you’d like to keep in the garden for fresh harvesting.

If you also have kale, collards, or beet greens, consider adding those to the harvest to bulk it up.

Use a pair of clippers or scissors to cut the stem near where it emerges from the ground.

Step 2: Chop

You can freeze the chard stems and leaves together in the same container, or keep them separate if you prefer. Cut the stem off where it meets the leaf. Stack several leaves on top of one another and then chop them into bite size pieces.

Then use your knife to chop the stems into small pieces.

Step 3: Wash

If you tend to have worms and insects in your chard (I do!) you might want to wash the leaves and stems before processing.

how to dry kale for freezing

Dry it in a salad spinner after washing.

Step 4: Dry

If you rinsed your chard, try to dry the leaves off a bit before freezing. This will cut down on the ice crystals that form due to moisture.

Use a towel to pat them dry, or give them a few turns through your salad spinner if you have one. (I’ve had this one for many years and use it several times a week.)

containers for freezing kale

Step 5: Load into containers

In this step you have a choice on how you want the finished product to function.

If you don’t mind the chard leaves and stems freezing into one big chunk, simply pack them as densely as possible into freezer bags. This is what I do.

If you’d like the leaves and stems to be loose and easily broken apart, spread them on a cookie sheet and pre-freeze them in the freezer for 60 minutes. Then pack into freezer bags.

I don’t find this to be a necessary step because even when you freeze the chard in a block it’s pretty easy to break off a chunk.

You could try a few bags with each of the two methods and decide which you like better.

See below for notes about other containers to use.

Step 6: Store

The best place to store your frozen swiss chard is in a chest freezer. If you’re getting serious about easy food preserving you’ll want to invest in one.

The freezer contained in your kitchen fridge (upright freezer) goes through periodic defrost cycles, which is why your ice cream is a bit soft sometimes when you dig it out for a late night snack.

A chest freezer stays at a constant temperature of zero degrees F. This is better for long lasting frozen food quality.

When you freeze your chard it will last up to one year. I bet you’ll use it all before then!

yellow swiss chard in garden

Containers for Freezer Storage

We’re trying to reduce our overall plastic use in our house. For many of my frozen food items I use wide mouth glass quart, pint and half pint glass canning jars.

Chard and other greens are difficult to remove from these jars, so I’ve defaulted to using freezer bags instead.

I try to care for my bags so they last several seasons in a row and then they’re often downgraded to hold other random household objects. But, they still do wear out and need to be thrown away.

If you have the budget, or plan to just freeze small amounts of food, you could invest in Stasher bags (or some other reusable silicone based bag).

You can also use plastic tupperware type containers for freezing vegetables.

See all of my recommended garden tools, books, seeds, and easy preserving supplies in my Amazon storefront.

How Much Chard to Freeze

I find that a quart-sized amount of frozen swiss chard is one or two servings depending on how I’m using it in a recipe.

That’s why it’s so convenient to use the quart freezer bags, even though I’m not crazy about the plastic. 

I recommend keeping a record of how much food you’re preserving each year so you can evaluate whether you’re putting away too much, not enough, or exactly how much you need.

It’s best to try to eat your frozen chard and other vegetables within one year.

I checked my records and I usually freeze 15 quart bags of mixed greens (kale, chard, collards, and beet greens) for winter and tend to use them up by the beginning of the harvest season the next spring.

Once you have fresh greens coming out of your garden you’re not going to want to dig out those frozen bags!

bright swiss chard stems

Ideas for Using Frozen Chard

I love to use frozen chard in smoothies, soups, stews, and stir-fries throughout the dark winter months. I simply take out a freezer bag and use the whole chunk, or cut off what I want with a knife.

I don’t usually defrost it first. I throw it in frozen.

Frozen vegetables never have the same consistency as their raw counterparts, so frozen chard is best used in cooked dishes.

In any recipe that calls for frozen spinach, I substitute frozen chard or other greens instead.

fall harvest from the garden

Favorite Recipes for Using Frozen Chard

Learning how to preserve your extra vegetables is only one part of the equation. Once you have that down you can start searching out recipes that highlight the vegetables you’ve put away. That’s the fun part!

Here are some of my favorite recipes I’ve discovered over the years that are a great complement to frozen chard.

Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower from Cookie and Kate

Rainbow Chard Bowls from Love and Lemons

Best Vegetarian Lasagna from Love and Lemons

White Chard Stew from 101 Cookbooks

Having your own tasty greens from the garden easily accessible in your freezer will encourage you to incorporate them into lots of tasty winter meals. And if you’re trying to eat more healthy foods, dark leafy greens are always at the top of the lists of the most nutrient rich vegetables.

So, grab some clippers, your harvest basket, and spend some time harvesting and freezing swiss chard this week.

 

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