All About Leafy Greens: Planting, Harvesting and Storing Leafy Greens

Planting leafy greens is exceptionally easy and for many variety results in both an ongoing harvest, as well as the opportunity for a second planting.

Start by germinating your seeds by soaking them in distilled water for a few hours before you plant them. The typical rule of thumb for outdoor planting of leafy green seeds is to plant them twice as deep as they are wide. Allow for space between plants when they reach their mature size so they don’t crowd each other out.

If planting in early spring, start as soon as the ground has thawed and is easy to work. This will also get you started on a two-harvest season, since by the time your first planting peters out in late summer, the conditions then will be favorable to plant again for a winter harvest.

Whatever time you’re considering planting, you’ll get the best results if you can count on eight hours of sunshine a day.

Once your plants come up and start to leaf out, it’s most efficient to clip leaves from plants like kale, collards, mustard greens and spinach as you need them. This keeps the plant intact and allows for continued growth. Cabbage and radicchio, meanwhile, should be harvested by the whole head.

Once they’re out of the garden, compact plants like cabbage and radicchio tend to hold up well. But because of their high moisture content and delicate leaves, storing other leafy greens in the refrigerator can sometimes turn into a slimy mess within just a few days. If you’ve harvested leaves and aren’t planning to use them right away, first wash them in cold water, pat dry and wrap them in paper towels. Put the wrapped bundle in a plastic grocery bag and store in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

If you’re putting up greens in the freezer to use later in cooked dishes, blanch them first by plunging the leaves into boiling, salted water (about a tablespoon of salt per 2 or 3 cups of water) for about a minute. Pull them out, then quickly throw them in ice water to stop the cooking process. The cooled leaves can be wrapped in a paper towel and stored intact or chopped. Either way, place them in a zip-top freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn.

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