Freezing Raw Kale : Quick and Easy

Published
Bags vacuumed ready for Freezer storage

We love Kale, and being able to Preserve Kale so quickly and easily at the end of the season is one of the key reasons this excellent plant gets a few pole positions in our garden beds each year.

It’s a sturdy, robust Vegetable Green that can take a little bit more cooking without getting lost in the dish prepared, unlike a couple of our staple perennials such as Katuk, also known as sweet leaf, and the softer leafy spinach greens that we grow year-round in our Back-yard Garden.

Kale growing in Garden Beds
Tuscan Kale growing in our Back Yard Garden Beds

When it is time to Preserve our harvest of Kale each year, I process it a few different ways, as we love that our food can be stored to be shelf stable and is available at any time during the coming year.

This is even more important to us as our Tuscan Kale only has a “garden availability” timespan of 2 months.

Is it easy to freeze Kale raw?

Yes, I have found Freezing it Raw to be the most convenient, quickest, and above all, most straightforward way for me to preserve this vegetable for the coming months.

Living here in the tropics, growing Kale is a bit Hit and Miss for us. It’s one of the few plants we grow with the winter crops that we laughingly call our “seasonal exotics.”

With such a tiny window where the weather is cool enough for these plants to grow, we will always be grateful for what crop we can get.

We generally plant to the theory of “out planting the pests.” This allows us to share with all the local pests (that will turn up ) and still get a good crop of Kale for ourselves to store within the allotted time given to us to grow it.

The chickens, of course, get the spent plants and many choice stalks during the busy harvesting time.

Chickens eating Kale
Chickens enjoy the spent, caterpillar riddled Kale.

We will, of course, continue to eat it fresh daily while we can, but once those caterpillars/pests start to move in and enjoy the tasty leaves, as well as just us, it will be time to process the harvest quickly.

It’s a dance we go through every year. However, our love for Kale is worth the effort it takes to grow. That then brings me to the preservation of this wonderous green vegetable.

How do you freeze Kale?

There are two ways of freezing Kale. Raw or Blanched.

This article covers the Raw method that I use.

The main reason I freeze most of my Kale Raw, and not by Blanching (pre-cooking) all of it, is that this particular Kale has been earmarked primarily for use in the slow cooker; I feel the extra step of blanching it is not needed.

Processing Foods in various ways creates diversity in my pantry, which in turn allows the food we grow to be used in a wide variety of ways.

Freshly picked Tuscan Kale
Freshly Picked Tuscan Kale. Used for Fresh eating as well as Freezing

Steps for Freezing Raw Packed Kale

  • Pick your Kale
  • Remove any bugs and caterpillars
  • Strip the stalks of Leaves and Stems and form 2 separate piles
  • Wash leaves, Drain and Dry if needed
  • Chop kale into desired sizes and pack tightly into vacuum bags
  • Chop stalks (provided not woody) and pack into vacuum bags
  • Vacuum bags using Vacuum sealer machine using bag sizes that suit your families needs
  • Write the date, variety of Kale and state RAW on bags
  • Freeze for later use in the coming months.

1.PICK FROM GARDEN AND DE-BUG

After gathering your Kale, inspect each leaf; it doesn’t take long. If it is a Curly leaf variety of Kale, you may have to wash the leaves a few more times as bugs like the little hiding places that this leaf has.

We now use mainly Tuscan Kale (also known as Dinosaur Kale) and don’t seem to have that “hidey hole” issue anymore.

2.STRIP LEAVES

Stripping the green leaf from the stalk is very easy to do.

Grab from the stalk end and pull to the tip. You will end up with the stalk in one hand and the leafy green in the other.

If the variety you have is a bit tough, cut the stalk out with a knife on a cutting board.

I place the stripped green leaf in one pile and the stalks in another.

Please check out the video below. It shows how I strip the Kale leaves.

If the stalks are not woody, they can also be processed for extra food storage. Using the younger stems from the Kale gives us another item of food to add to slow cooker meals.

Bagged Chopped Kale Stems
We use these Kale Stems in Slow cooker meals.

Any woody stalks, damaged leaves, and any critters found all get thrown into the scrap bucket for the chickens.

3.WASH IF NEEDED, PAT DRY LEAVES.

If there are signs of you needing to wash your Kale, then go ahead and do that now. You fill the sink with clean water, add leaves and stalks, swish around a few times, rub dirt off stalks and then drain.

You can use a salad spinner to help flick off any excess water and roll Kale leaves between 2 tea towels to remove the remaining moisture.

I try to avoid washing the leaves when doing Raw Pack freezing, as when I bag up the Kale, I don’t want the excess water to form ice crystals in the bags. If the leaves are clean and have no soil on them, I won’t wash them and will begin the next step.

Vacuum Sealer
Vacuum sealing Raw Kale (Dinosaur Kale)

In the past, I have used the Zip lock style of bags and found them not thick enough to keep the food airtight while in the freezer. We are now using Vacuum seal bags to freeze our freezer items.

4.CHOP KALE AND STEMS

I will now “chop and fill” the required-sized bags with the stripped clean Kale leaves, packing them tightly. I will also fill serving-sized bags with chopped Kale stems.

5.VACUUM

Vacuum and seal the bags with clean, chopped leaves or cleaned chopped stalks into your chosen-sized bags. Date them, also writing the variety of Kale and mentioning that this is Raw (not pre-cooked blanched Kale).

The easy process of Freezing Raw Kale

Freezing Raw Kale is so much faster and easier for us to do. However, it has different uses and can’t always be used the same way as the blanched (pre-cooked) Kale.

As it is NOT cooked, this frozen Kale will still need to be cooked when you take it from the freezer to use.

Frozen Raw Kale has a recommended freezer storage time of 2 to 3 months.

However …..if that time frame slips past me, and if the bags are still well sealed, the freezer is working well, and the produce put in the freezer was fresh, then I will choose what to do with it.

Life gets in the way….. and if I find Kale 5, 6, or even 7 months later and can see no apparent damage to bags, then I will use it.

CONCLUSION

There are no Freezer Police. Being self-sufficient is about using what you have. I will use it accordingly as I don’t want to waste food…..especially when I know how much effort we put into growing it in the first place.

So this is one of the many ways I preserve our crop of Kale. Next time I will bring you along for the Blanching process. Hope to see you there.

This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.