How to Handle an Abundance of Late Spring Produce
When you are awash in asparagus or face a wide span of spinach, you may wonder: are there creative ways to preserve them for later use?
The strategy used by Happy Dancing Turtle’s Chef Chris is freezing. But before you chuck the asparagus spears or spinach leaves in the freezer (or even a freezer bag), taking some careful preparation steps will really pay off.
Chef Chris blanches asparagus and spinach by putting them in boiling water for a short time and then immediately dunking in ice water. This stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. It has the bonus of cleaning the veggies, so you can go directly from picking/bringing home to putting it in hot water.
“Blanching before freezing preserves color and texture,” Chef Chris says. The bright green color of the spear on the left shows what happens during blanching. “I like to think of autumn leaves–how their color is enhanced by the contrasting temperatures of fall weather. Blanching is similar.”
Once blanched and stored in plastic bags in the freezer, the produce will be good for 3 months (spinach) to 6 months (asparagus). “Of course, if you are just using the spinach for soups or stews and the texture doesn’t matter, you can keep it longer.”
Chef Chris spends time sorting asparagus by size, both for length of time to be blanched and for a uniform fit in freezer bags. He points out fitting in the bag nicely is important. “If you take the time to do that, there will be less space for ice crystals in the bag. The ice crystals are what damage the produce and you wind up with mushy asparagus.”
If you have the equipment and the inclination, vacuum sealing is a great option. “It at least doubles the freezer life of asparagus or spinach. Asparagus might be good for up to 18 months.”
Again, it is important to have the asparagus lined up by size.
But enough about preserving. It’s great to plan ahead but the warm weather is so precious here–let’s enjoy something fresh! Radishes can be tricky–they are a delicious snack and an interesting topping to tacos or burritos, but how do you make good use of a lot of radishes? Chef Chris shared a salad recipe.
Radish & Carrot Salad
4 cups radish (cleaned and diced)
4 cups carrots (cleaned and diced)
1 cup red onion (diced small)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (fine chopped)
1 tablespoon miso paste
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (apple cider works too)
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground garlic (or 2 cloves minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Mix miso, honey, vinegar, ground garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
Toss the radishes, carrots and onions in with the dressing.
Fold in the parsley.
Chef Chris notes: “Fresh vegetables can always be added to a dressing like this to make a refreshing salad.You can try different fresh herbs like dill and basil to give the salads different tones, and fruits like apples, grapes or melons. Try different combinations to make a salad that is uniquely yours!”
Do you have a tried-and-true way to preserve asparagus or spinach? Or a favorite recipe? Please share with us in the comments!