This trick will allow you to use your bounty of greens for months to come.

By David McCann
Updated August 21, 2020
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I know not everyone has a green thumb. I’m lucky to have a yard planted to the bursting point with herbs and greens as well as other delicious comestibles. But even if you don’t grow them, when you shop at a farmer’s market or your local grocery store, I’m betting we both sometimes run into the following problem… we see gorgeous greens like kale, chard, mustard, spinach, collards etc. and we helplessly buy (or harvest) way too many. And as we all know, greens can go from a gorgeous leafy bouquet to a puddle of frightening goo in a matter of days. What to do?

First, realize that greens are generally in the neighborhood of 85-90+ percent water. And that is a big reason why they won’t last as long once they’ve been harvested.

In the past, when I’ve realized that my vegetable drawer was full of greens about to “go bad,” I have frantically rushed to make something with them—a greens filled soup, a saag paneer, or even one of my adopted favorites, “a mess o’ greens” with some ham hock and red pepper (and served with cornbread, of course).

But sometimes, I don’t want any of those. And I don’t want to spend my day making something that I don’t want.

Credit: Claudia Totir/Getty Images

Claudia Totir/Getty Images

And then I remembered duxelles. No, this is not another paean to mushrooms. But I started thinking that, considering that mushrooms are about 90% water, and cooking the mushrooms down into duxelles allows me to freeze them almost indefinitely, might that be a greens solution as well?

So I washed and stemmed a large bunch of greens, put them in a hot pan with just a drop of oil and a tiny pinch of salt , and simply wilted them. This took about 10 minutes total. Then I drained them, let them cool, bagged them and put them in the freezer. About 2 weeks later, on a day when Indian food was all I could dream about, I pulled the greens out of the freezer, and made a saag paneer. I have to say, I could detect no difference in the finished dish… except that it took me half the time to make it.

I am only a believer in shortcuts when they don’t lessen the quality of the dish. And this was not only delicious, but it saved me from wasting a whole lot of greens. Another bonus: Even these “partially cooked” greens take up almost no space when compared to the enormity of the uncooked bunch.

And I like this method so much that I now buy/harvest greens specifically to wilt and freeze. I never saw that one coming!