Blanching Beets and Top Greens for Freezing

I hope you have beets in your garden bed because this nutrient rich food doesn't allow any part of its growth to go to waste. Virtually every part of this deep red vegetable is edible with both the root and greens of this plant being deliciously edible. 

With the fall harvest almost complete you will find my husband and I busy blanching fresh beet roots and greens for freezing. Beets are the last vegetable to be pulled out of our garden, as they like most root crops they handle the early frosts quite well. The process of blanching vegetables for the freezer can sound like a daunting task but it really is not all that difficult. Beets are one of the easier vegetables to cook for freezing. They have a longer blanching time than many other vegetables so there is plenty of time between pots to get other tasks such as cooling and bagging done.

Beets take quite awhile to cook so I space out the work load by doing a few batches each day. My husband and I have developed a system that really helps to simply the work load for both of us. Each night my husband goes out to the garden and pulls up about 1/4 of the beet crop. While he is still outside he washes the bulk of the dirt off the beets with the garden hose. He then brings the beets in and cuts the roots from the greens into the two sinks which I have prepared for him. Any bad leaves are discarded back into our garden as compost. 

This is where my part of the job comes in. My job will be to blanch and bag the beets for freezing. I confess that I am a bit of a perfectionist and especially where it concerns the foods that we eat. So I do a second cleaning of the beets and check to insure that my husband has found all the imperfections and tiny tag along creatures that may have come in with our vegetable crop.

Do not attempt to cut or peel your beets before they are cooked. Raw beets are extremely hard in texture but as they cook the beets soften and are then very easy to peel and quarter. Group the beets by size or by the amount of time that each batch will require to cook. Separate the beet roots from the top greens as these will each cook for different amounts of time. It is also important to separate the larger beets from the smaller ones as these will be cooked for different amounts of time as well. Larger beets will cook for about 40 minutes while the smaller beets will cook for about 25 - 30 minutes. Your beet greens should be cooked for between 4 to 6 minutes each batch.

When you are cooking your vegetable harvest for freezing a blanching pot can help speed up the process. It keeps your original pot of boiling water on the stove and immediately ready for the next lot to head into it. You just top it up a bit with each new batch then refill the inset pot with your raw vegetable and pop your inner pot back into the boiling water for blanching.

A blancher makes the job of cooking vegetables quite a bit easier. When your vegetable is cooked you just pull the inset pot out, douse it in ice water, and remove the vegetables from there.

Now it is time to cook the beet greens. Keep the stems long or chop them into smaller sections. Either way works. You can also keep a few fresh to toss into your supper salad.

1. Clean and separate beet tops from the roots.

2. Fill a blancher or large pot with water. Bring water to a full boil then add in your selected vegetables. Load your pot by the size of your item. Keep in mind larger beets should cook for about 40 minutes while the smaller beets will cook for about 25 - 30 minutes. Your beet greens will blanch for between 4 to 6 minutes each batch.

3. After the beets have cooked for their allotted time remove from heat and submerge in ice water. Blanching followed by a quick cooling locks the nutrients in. I generally begin with the roots as they have the longer cooking time and I can get the greens prepared while they cook.

At this point you will be able to easily peel your beet roots by slipping the skin off with your fingers. Once the beets are peeled drain the water off and then quarter or dice the roots into a size that you find convenient for future eating. I generally quarter larger beets but leave the smaller ones whole.

I then package my vegetables into freezer bags but you can freeze your vegetables in Tupperware containers or recycled margarine or yogurt containers as well. Use a vacuum sealer system will help to remove excess air or keep a sipping straw handy and use it to remove the air from your packages before you seal them shut. This will help to prevent freezer burn.

Recycling used plastic containers not only benefits the environment it also truly does cut down on packaging costs. It’s a win win situation. Rather than purchasing plastic containers save them from your kitchen as the food products are emptied from them.

1. Use the same blanching process for cooking your beet tops. Blanch beet greens for 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Submerge your cooked beet tops in ice water. Once cool drain and package them for freezing. Beet greens are very nutritious and well worth saving. Raw they can be added to salads. Cooked they can be eaten like Swiss chard or spinach would be. My husband actually prefers them to the root.

Gardening really does not have to take up a lot of space yet a simply herb or lettuce garden can bring a lot of joy to those who have them. I love that we have a garden and fruit trees in our yard. It not only cuts down on our grocery costs but it also allows us to grow fruits and vegetables that are organic. We do not use pesticides or additional fertilizers on our garden or fruit trees and yet we have a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables every Autumn.

It is economical and eco-friendly to compost your kitchen vegetable waste back into the garden. This nutritious waste turns into dark rich soil within a month or two. It helps to keep our garden area healthy and free of the need of potentially harmful additives. The local birds eat quite a few bugs that might otherwise be chowing down on our crop. The birds enjoy a few cherries as well but that is fine. I consider it a fair trade for the service they provide us.

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