How do you preserve kale after harvesting?

Kale is a super healthy green leafy vegetable that is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, like most leafy greens, kale is highly perishable after harvesting. Preventing spoilage and preserving kale properly after picking can help maintain its freshness and nutritional quality. Here are some quick answers about preserving kale post-harvest:

How long does fresh kale last after picking?

Freshly picked kale will usually last 3-5 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. The sooner you can store kale after harvesting, the better its shelf life. Leaving kale out at room temperature will cause it to wilt and spoil faster.

What’s the best way to store fresh kale?

To best preserve fresh kale, store it unwashed in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator. Remove any rubber bands or twist ties first. The bag should have some air inside to prevent crushing the leaves but be sealed to retain moisture. Storing in the crisper drawer can help too.

How can you extend the shelf life of fresh kale?

There are a few tricks to make fresh kale keep longer:

  • Mist the leaves with water before refrigerating to rehydrate them
  • Wrap leaves in paper towels or cloth to absorb excess moisture
  • Remove any damaged outer leaves
  • Don’t wash kale until right before eating

What causes kale to spoil faster?

Kale will deteriorate quicker when:

  • Stored at room temperature over 40°F
  • Kept in sunlight, which destroys nutrients
  • Washed before storing, which spreads moisture
  • Packed too tightly together, crushing the leaves
  • Kept near ethylene-producing fruits like apples, bananas, etc.

Can you freeze kale to extend its shelf life?

Freezing is one of the best methods for long-term kale storage. With proper blanching and freezing techniques, kale can last 6-12 months frozen before noticeable decline in taste or texture.

How to freeze kale

Follow these steps for freezing kale:

  1. Wash and dry fresh kale thoroughly
  2. Remove stems and chop leaves into desired size pieces
  3. Blanch leaves quickly in boiling water or steam for 1-2 minutes
  4. Cool blanched kale fast in an ice bath to stop cooking
  5. Drain off excess water and pack kale into freezer bags or containers
  6. Squeeze out air, seal, label and freeze at 0°F or below

Tips for best frozen kale

  • Use freshly picked young kale leaves for sweetest flavor
  • Chop or purée kale for easy use in recipes later
  • Add lemon juice to help preserve color and nutrients
  • Avoid overcrowding freezer bags
  • Use frozen within 6-12 months for peak quality

What are other preservation methods for kale?

In addition to refrigerating and freezing, kale can also be:

  • Dehydrated – Kale chips are a popular dehydrated option. Works best with lacinato or dinosaur kale.
  • Canned – Blanch kale leaves then pack into jars with vinegar, broth, or other liquid.
  • Pickled – Raw kale fermented in a brine makes for a tangy, crunchy side or topping.
  • Salted – Heavily salting shredded kale removes moisture for longer shelf life.

How do you know if kale has spoiled and is inedible?

Signs that kale has gone bad and needs to be discarded include:

  • Yellow, brown, or slimy black leaves
  • Wilted, mushy texture
  • Strong bitter, sour, or rotten smell
  • Moldy, fuzzy growth anywhere on leaves
  • Rust/browned stems
  • Very dry, crumbly leaves if dehydrated

Can you eat kale with some spoiled parts removed?

It’s best not to eat any kale that shows signs of spoilage. Any slimy, discolored, wilted, or foul smelling leaves should be fully discarded. Small spots of mold also make kale unsafe for consumption and it should be thrown out. Don’t try to salvage unaffected parts of spoiled kale.

What food safety practices should be used when preserving kale?

Proper food safety principles are important when storing fresh kale or preserving it for later use. Recommended practices include:

  • Picking kale cleanly and avoiding contact with soil
  • Washing hands and cutting boards before/after handling
  • Cleaning kale thoroughly before preservation
  • Blanching kale before dehydrating or freezing
  • Using clean jars/lids and boiling water bath for canning
  • Monitoring freezer temperature at 0°F or below
  • Labeling kale with dates and monitoring during storage

Can you eat too much preserved kale? What are signs of excess consumption?

Eating very large amounts of any preserved kale can potentially cause issues due to its high fiber and mineral content. Some signs of overconsumption may include:

  • Digestive problems like gas, bloating, diarrhea
  • Thyroid problems from excessive vitamin K intake
  • Kidney stress from high levels of potassium and oxalates
  • Reduced calcium absorption from the oxalates

Moderating portion sizes is recommended, even with nutritious preserved kale. Around 1-2 cups fresh or 1/2 cup cooked per day is a reasonable amount for most healthy adults.

What are the best ways to use preserved kale?

Here are some excellent ways to use kale after harvesting and preserving it:

Frozen kale

  • Smoothies – Add nutrient-rich greens to fruit smoothies
  • Soups – Stir into vegetable, minestrone, potato, or bean soups
  • Casseroles – Mix into lasagna, pasta bakes, enchiladas, etc.
  • Sautéed – Cook with olive oil and garlic, onions, spices
  • Juicing – Combine with apples, celery, lemon for cold-pressed juice

Dehydrated kale

  • Chips – Toss with oil and salt then bake into crunchy kale chips
  • Powder – Grind into powder to add to smoothies, juices, dips
  • Crackers – Add to seed cracker doughs for extra nutrition
  • Crumble – Use as salad topping or taco/fajita filler

Canned or pickled kale

  • Salads – Sprinkle pickled kale over leafy greens
  • Sandwiches – Layer over cheese, meat in subs and paninis
  • Pizza – Top pizzas with pickled kale for tangy crunch
  • Eggs – Fold chopped canned kale into egg scrambles or frittatas
  • Pasta – Mix canned kale into pasta sauces or stir-fries


Preserving freshly harvested kale properly allows you to enjoy its nutrition long after the growing season ends. Refrigerating, blanching and freezing, dehydrating, canning, and pickling are all excellent options for making kale last for months while retaining nutrients and flavor. Following food safety guidelines and moderating intake prevents potential risks. Incorporate your preserved kale into smoothies, soups, salads, entrees, and more.

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