Freeze lettuce?! You might think that sounds crazy. I think it’s genius!
Vibrant lettuce, grown organically, picked fresh that very day from your own garden is full of nutrients… preserve them! Of course, a couple of beautiful lettuce heads from the farmer’s market are also worthy candidates for freezing.
This all started last year in May when I planted the garden. I am not usually one to throw seeds around willy nilly; to over plant seeds and then thin the seedlings is not my style. However, lettuce seed is easy to save and I have an abundance of it, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and sprinkle the seeds all over. I figured that when the lettuce came up, I would thin the little seedlings and put the causalities to use for dinner.
And then I neglected the garden. The lettuce never got thinned and one month later I had practically full-grown lettuce heads all cramped-up in a row together. A lot of them had to go! I got my biggest harvest bowl and went down the row pulling whole lettuce plants, snapping off the dirt and roots and collecting the greens. When finished I had over 40 cups of fresh garden lettuce leaves, and no idea what I was going to do with them. Womp womp.
Then the light bulb moment: I freeze kale and spinach… why not freeze lettuce?!
How to Preserve and Freeze Lettuce
1. Harvest your lettuce in the morning, before the heat of the day for maximum flavor and less bitterness.
2. Thoroughly wash the lettuce- to do this I fill a big bowl with water and agitate the lettuce with my hands. Don’t overcrowd the bowl, or the dirt from the lettuce won’t fall to the bottom.
3. Dry the lettuce: you can either use a salad spinner, simply lay the leaves out on towels on the counter for a bit, or invert a mixing bowl over a colander and shake the water out; they don’t need to be as dry as if you were going to use them in a salad.
4. Stuff the jar of your blender (I used a Vitamix) to the top with lettuce and turn it on full blast. I had to use the plunger to get it down to the blade at first, but then it took off! Stop every 20-30 seconds to add more lettuce, and go ahead and keep adding lettuce until your blender is nearly full of the pulpy, green mixture. Yep, I fit all 40 cups into one blender session! This amount filled about two traditional ice cube trays full…. which ended up to be about 1-2 cups of fresh lettuce per cube. Not bad!
5. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Store the frozen cubes in a zip-top freezer bag.
6. I just used traditional ice cube trays, but you should also consider these Easy Push Pop Out Round Mini Trays for smaller cubes, or a Silicon Mini Muffin Pan for a nice-sized cube that comes out of the mold easily (great for freezing smaller portions of other things too!).
What Does One Do with Frozen Lettuce Cubes, You Ask?
They are little power houses of nutrition- so throw them into smoothies, or even add them to soups, sauces and casseroles. A couple cubes tossed into a pot of chili would be undetectable!
My cubes were made from about 70% green butter lettuce and 30% red leaf and frisée. They tasted mild and just slightly grassy. Your frozen lettuce cubes will taste like whatever your lettuce tastes like… so be careful about how much of the more bitter kinds you use, unless that’s what you are going for.
I tried one frozen lettuce cube in a smoothie and I couldn’t taste a thing! Which is good, because I want the nutrients and all the good stuff, but I don’t want my berry smoothie to taste too much like grass. It did add a little complexity to the flavor of the smoothie, but it didn’t turn it green (so the kids won’t know) or have any discernible lettuce taste. No real flecks of green either, like spinach or kale might have. My smoothie was one serving and consisted of frozen strawberries, blackberries, grass-fed greek yogurt, honey, and one standard size lettuce cube- it was perfect!
All you reckless lettuce planters rejoice- you’ll be enjoying garden-fresh lettuce all year round!
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