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Harvesting and Preserving Garden Greens

Buster began cooking as a wee pup by watching his mother fix the kibble. He was hooked. He loves preparing—and writing about—food.

Gorgeous greens

Gorgeous greens

Saving Money With Your Garden

Sure, it saves money to have greens fresh from your garden, but you can save even more when you learn how to freeze your greens.

What kind of greens can you freeze?

  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Ruby chard
  • Kale
  • Turnip greens

Best of all? They keep that fresh-from-the-garden taste for up to a year. Here's how to do it.

When To Pick Your Greens

Pick your greens first thing in the morning. This will maximize the moisture in them. As the day gets hotter, greens pull some of their moisture toward their roots and away from the leaves. You want all of that moisture when you preserve your harvest.

Plan a morning when you can pick your greens early and then freeze them immediately. Greens will begin to wilt fairly soon after picking, and you want to capture as much of that fresh goodness as possible.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Greens

It is vitally important that you clean your greens thoroughly. If you don't, you may end up with grains of dirt or sand in them—there are few things worse than taking a bite of yummy greens and feeling grit in your teeth.

Here's the best way to wash your greens.

  1. Put the picked greens in a large pot or pan of water and swish them around for a minute.
  2. Remove the greens, pour the water out, and fully rinse out your pot or pan.\
  3. Repeat. This time, after you swish them around, let them sit in the water for about a half-hour.
  4. When you return to them, DON'T SWISH THE WATER. Carefully remove the greens, then rinse and wash the pot.

I put up swiss chard, and I wash each green individually rather than doing the soaking method mentioned above. It may seem tedious, but it doesn't really take all that long.

Cleaning the greens is the hardest part. Don't get discouraged, but do make sure that you have thoroughly washed all the dirt from the leaves.

Preparing Greens for the Freezer

  1. After the greens are washed, chop them roughly and put them into a large pot on the stove. The water that clings to the leaves is all the liquid you need.
  2. Set the temperature (or fire, if you use a gas stove) to medium. You want to let the greens wilt—they will turn a brilliant green color.
  3. A large, full pot of greens will cook down to about 1/3 of your pot, maybe even less. This usually takes about 15 minutes.
  4. You aren't cooking the greens, you're only wilting them. Once they're wilted, remove the pot from the stove and let them come to room temperature.
Blanched greens ready for the freezer

Blanched greens ready for the freezer

Bagging and Freezing Your Greens

Get a box of freezer bags (not sandwich bags, which aren't thick enough to protect your vegetables)—I use the quart size. Using a black marker, write the name of your greens on the package and put a date on it. Greens are best if they're eaten within one year from putting in the freezer.

Why should you write what they are on the package? If you put up collards and, say, mustard greens, you may not be able to tell which is which just by looking once the packages are frozen. It only takes a minute to label your bags.

I put two cups of greens into each quart bag—it's the right amount for us. If you have a larger family or are preparing (usually) just for one person, you can put one cup, or three.

Lay the bags on the counter and press all the air out of them, then seal them. Move the contents around in the bag with your fingers so the package lays as flat as possible. Clear away space in your freezer where the bags will lay flat to freeze. Once they're frozen you can move them to a part of the freezer that works best for you.

That's all there is to it!

Final Important Tips

  • Make sure you move the contents in the bags so that the bag lays as flat as possible.
  • Make a space in your freezer where you can lay the bags FLAT, and on top of each other is fine. Once they are frozen in neat flat bags you can then move them to another part of the freezer if you like.
  • You'll be glad you took the time to freeze them in evenly-shaped bags! The first time I did this I tossed the bags into the freezer willy-nilly, and then later discovered that I had these odd-shaped packages that wouldn't rest on top of each other. They took up too much room in my small freezer.

How To Cook Them Later


  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • Package of frozen greens
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt to taste


  1. Soften the chopped onion in about 2 tbsp. of olive oil till they are translucent.
  2. Add in your greens (still frozen is fine) and put your temperature to low.
  3. After the greens and onions have cooked for about a half-hour, add in the vinegar, sugar and salt to taste.

You may need more vinegar and sugar—they usually are used in a 1-to-1 ratio. You'll love having fresh greens—maybe even in the dead of winter—and they taste as if they were just harvested from your garden.


Related Article


Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on February 26, 2018:

Hi Connie,

Use a slotted spoon or strainer ladle, and you won't need to use a salad spinner.

Thanks for writing, Connie. And good luck with your greens!


connie on February 26, 2018:

Once the greens are blanched and at room temp do you have to run them through a salad spinner to get out excess moisture to prevent freezer burn?

Bruce & Janna on September 23, 2016:

try adding bacon to your greens mmmm we love it. spinach, collards, and even our green beans when cooking them from frozen or canned.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on June 21, 2012:

Hi Rhonda,

Yes, it's the easiest -- and most effective -- method I know.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!


Rhonda on June 21, 2012:

Thank you SO much for this alternative to the wash/blanch/ice water bath way. This takes hardly anytime at all and the greens look way better too. Thanks again.

Woody on May 31, 2012:

I like to fry in bacon greese with ounion...then dont forget the cornbread....yum

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on May 26, 2012:

Hi Cindi,

I'm picking greens in the morning -- some will go in the freezer and some will be a part of our dinner.

I'm glad to,hear you're going to try this technique for preserving greens. It's easy, and the greens taste fresh, even many months after you've frozen them.

Enjoy --


Cindi on May 26, 2012:

Our family loves greens! They are so nutritious and yummy. We just joined a CSA so this week we'll have a lot on hand and I'll freeze a lot of them as you described. Thank you for sharing. :-)

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on May 16, 2012:

Hi Jenny,

Yes, that's right. I've tried the method you're writing about, and my approach is SO much easier and faster. The greens taste great out of the freezer using the method I've described above. You'll love it.

Good luck!


Jenny on May 15, 2012:

Are you saying you cover them with water, set them on the stove and DON'T boil them? Just cook them until they are no longer stiff? Then let them cool in the pot you cooked them in with the water?

I just started doing this last week and did the whole boiling, ice water thing so I just want to make sure I understand exactly what you are saying before doin this.

Thanks so much!

linda dry on May 01, 2012:

I have always blanched my turnip greens,cooled them down . then bagged them in freezer bags. they have always been wonderful. But stacking them was a problem i might try your wilting process

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on April 01, 2012:


Yes, I always use the stems for chard. They freeze beautifuly. Best of all? They taste fresh when defrosted.

Enjoy your greens!

Best regards,


AKM on April 01, 2012:

For chard, can you leave the stems on? I usually use the whole leaf with the stem when fresh, and I hate to waste. Thanks for sharing this method. It sounds so much easier than the boil then flash chill in ice water method. Thank you.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on March 21, 2012:

Hi Girty,

I put a little of the liquid into the freezer bag with the greens. It adds flavor and provides cooking liquid for when I defrost them later for a meal.

Good luck with your greens!


Girty on March 21, 2012:

Do you drain the water from the greens before bagging?

Hilda on December 09, 2011:

Add salt to the water when washing them, this will kill any insects on them..........I used to freeze greens all the time, until I started canning..........this is the best way to keep greens..........delicious

meryl steinberg on November 20, 2011:

Thanks Buster. Now I can buy more from my farmer's market. One farmer brings his stuff in very fresh. I always hate wasting. Just prepared a batch for Thanksgiving so it will be "fresh" on Thursday.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on November 02, 2011:

Hi Big Mama,

I usually don't. It doesn't take long to wilt the greens, then I take the pot off of the heat.

Good luck!


big mama on November 01, 2011:

do you put a lid on the pot during the wilting process?

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on October 06, 2011:


I think it's fantastic that more and more people are discovering the pleasure (and health benefits) of growing their own food.

You're going to be surprised at how fresh-tasting your greens will be out of the freezer this winter. It's like opening up a li'l bit of summer in the midst of the cold.

Thanks for taking the time to write.


AKGardener on October 05, 2011:

This is my first year growing collard greens in Alaska. It's vitally important that we grow things we can preserve, and I'm so glad this site showed me how! I had a bumper crop and I couldn't possibly have eaten it fast enough. It'll be a God send in the dead of winter to have nice fresh greens to eat, rather than wilty vegetables from the store. thanks!

Eloise Hope from Portland, Oregon, USA on August 09, 2011:

Thank you for this article. I appreciated the specific instructions; flattening the bags seems obvious, but I've frozen the lumpy, unstackable bags, too! Great idea to simply flatten in an open freezer area, then stack somewhere once flat.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on August 05, 2011:

Hey Eva,

Yes, I think the method described here works best, and you get to keep more of the vitamins and nutrients in the process.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me.

Best regards,


Eva on August 05, 2011:

Thanks for the tips. I wish I came across your page couple weeks earlier before I started to freeze my greens. I was always unhappy with the amount of water for blanching and the loss of all the nutrients. Your suggestion is great. I have a lot of greens still to freeze, so will use your suggestions. Thanks again. :)

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on June 17, 2011:

Hi Angeldolls,

Yes, Tennessee is great country for growing greens. I'm glad you're now freezing some. They really do taste as fresh as they do right out of the garden.

Thanks for taking the time to write to me -- it means a lot.

Best regards,


Angeldolls on June 17, 2011:

I don't know what happened to my first comment but it posted in the middle of my writing it! Again thanks for the instructions for freezing greens. I live in East Tennessee and all greens grow great here. I have a large crop of turnip greens now. I used to freeze them until about 35 years ago but had forgotten how to prepare them for the freezer. I was happy when I found your site. Thank you so much.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on October 10, 2010:

Hi Jo,

Yes, turnip greens freeze beautifully.


Jo on October 09, 2010:

Can you successfully freeze turnip greens after they are fully cooked?

Marty1 from New South Wales Australia on September 19, 2010:

This is pretty cool. I was wondering how to do this.

Looks like I better get the green thumb out and grow some more.

I must admit though I am blesses where i live because I can garden all year long.

Thanks for the great content.

Happy Gardening


Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on September 09, 2010:

Hi Waterfall,

Gardening is an art, and every year I feel as though I'm still learning many things. I bet that next year you'll harvest many more greens.

Thanks for taking the time to write --


Waterfall on September 08, 2010:

This was my first time planting green and I was so disappointed when I saw all the damage done to the leaves from the bugs. Unfortunately, my inconsistency in trying to spray the bugs away really cost me a lot of leaves. I have harvested some, but not nearly has much as it should have been. This has taught me plenty and I take my hat off to those "true" gardeners. It's lots of work if you want to produce a good crop!

ritabean on August 26, 2010:

hi, gonna chime in here. what a great post. thanks so much.

Sheila on July 30, 2010:

Great tips for all of us with big gardens. thanks-your post was really helpful.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on June 13, 2010:

Hi Pete,

I love mustard greens -- and they freeze beautifully.

Thanks for taking the time to write!


Pete in Ark. on June 13, 2010:

Thanks for your instructions. Very nice of you. I'll be freezing mustard tomorrow.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on June 06, 2010:

Hi Sarah,

Freezing greens is such a great way to save all that yummy garden goodness.

I really appreciate that you took the time to write.


Sarah on June 05, 2010:

This has been so useful for me. I've never frozen greens before and I currently have a garden full of them and not enough time to eat them all! Thanks so much for the info, and so clearly written too!

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on May 29, 2010:

Hi Rene,

Yes, I agree. We ate the last of our greens from last year about a week or so ago. They were still incredibly delicious -- if I didn't know... I would have guessed they were fresh out of the garden. We put them up last summer.


Thanks for writing!


Rene on May 28, 2010:

Thank you for taking the time to write this. I am so glad to read that we really can have the greens until next harvest. We need so desperately to get away from the grocery store.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on May 14, 2010:

Hi Carol,

Blanching the greens is necessary to stop the action of the enzymes (which mature the greens.) If you just wash greens then freeze them, they will develop off-flavors and off-colors because the maturing process will continue, even in the freezer. So... bring the greens to the boiling point, even if only for a few moments... it's a necessary part of the process of preserving your greens.

Thanks for writing!


Kristin on May 09, 2010:

Thank you so much for this post. I've got a huge crop of mustard greens and chard to process and you've made it easy for me to preserve them.

carol on May 04, 2010:

I wonder if you can't freeze the leaves after washing, and without wilting? I know you can buy bagged collards and mustards that way. Why not chard?

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on November 29, 2009:

Hi GMarie,

Chard leaves can get really large and still have lots of flavor and a tender texture. When you cook them, don't forget to add a bit of sugar, which will smooth out any bitterness (if any.)

I look forward to hearing how the freezing goes!


GMarie on November 29, 2009:

I thank you, too, for posting this info as I just harvested a huge leaf bag full of swiss chard. Quite large leaves--I hope they are not bitter. Spinach doesn't seem to grow well in my Cincinnati, OH garden, better yields with the chard. I'll post to tell you the results. :)

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on August 18, 2009:

Hi Tooelek,

You're going to love how easily swiss chard freezes.

I just used the last bag from the freezer I put up last year... and my current crop is now ready for harvesting. We're planning to eat it fresh for a while...


... then we'll start putting it in the freezer.

Thanks for writing.


tooelek on August 18, 2009:

Oh, good! I've never grown swiss chard before, and to my good fortune (?), it grows really, really well in my area. I now have MORE than I can use. I'll definitely be freezing most of it.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on July 17, 2009:

Hey Tiger,

When I'm washing my greens, I tear away discolored sections, or places where there was bug damage. If you have a great deal of bug damage then I would wait until next year. You might want to try using Corry's Insect Powder. You sprinkle it around the base of the greens -- not on your greens -- and it works really well.

Thanks so much for writing!


Amanda Davey from Canterbury, Kent, UK on July 17, 2009:

Wow! Never thought about freezing my greens. Great instructions. Thank you. I shall be sure to check out your other hubs and to join your fan club.

Would it matter if the greens had some leaf damage from bugs?

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on September 01, 2008:

A food saver works great -- I'm so glad the information was helpful -- enjoy your greens!

D on August 31, 2008:

Thank you for this article and the time it took to write it. I have a garden full of lovely greens and little time to cook this summer. I purchased a food saver and will use your recipe to save our harvest. Ny goal is to eat lots more greens for the mineral benefits. Thank you so much!!!

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