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GREENS! - need tips for quickly cleaning and de-stemming

I love fresh turnip, collard or mustard greens but HATE how long it takes to clean and de-stem them, especially when trying to do this for many bunches. Does anyone have any tips or know any products available that make this job easier and faster? (please don't say washing machine......never again will I try that)

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  1. With whole leaves, I fill up my second sink with cold water, swish them in it for a few seconds. Then let the dirt settle. Drain, lifting greens out. Repeat until water is clean. To destem, I just fold the leaf in half lengthwise, and rip out the stems. Or you could stack quite a few that are similar size, lay flat and cut through all leaves to cut stem out. Not sure there is a faster way.

    With greens that are already chopped, I put in a large colander that spans across the sink, and spray them with cold water from the faucet. Usually only have to do this once, chopped greens are not as dirty.

    1. Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to a large pot,sink,or plastic 5 gallon bucket of cool water. Swish the green around , let dirt settle to bottom. Rinse...repeat as needed... We do this with greens from our garden out back with an outdoor sink . The sandy water is just dumped on the lawn, not into the plumbing!

      11 Replies
        1. re: magiesmom

          Baking soda (and vinegar and salt) have anti biotic properties.

          1. re: Alan408

            But why do greens need antibiotics?

            1. re: magiesmom

              Anti biotic kills "germs"

              I don't use them but have read about using baking soda, salt and vinegar as a substitute to commercially available vegetable washes/rinses

              1. re: Alan408

                I know, but what germs are you concerned about on greens.
                I have never used any kind of washes, just seems like a marketing gimmick.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  I was answering your question

                  Why so confrontational ?

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    If you are buying greens from the grocery store, and they aren't organic, they could certainly be covered with pesticides/etc.

                    I don't use baking soda personally...but then I mostly buy organic greens from my farmers market.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Baking soda (and vinegar and salt) have anti biotic properties. they bare not antibiotics.
                      if you follow the news there have been many recalls of greens due to e coli contamination. is it likely, no. is it possible, sure.
                      you might want to read this on benefits of using vinegar and limitations.
                      i perspnally just rince with water though i do have a spray bottle of vinegar water.

                  2. re: magiesmom

                    Somehow it helps release the soil from the leaves, a cleanser..Probably has to do with molecular bonding and electrons attractions. I tried using powdered laundry detergent but the flavor was off.....J/K

                2. Cleaning is relatively quick/easy in sink with lots of water... changed a few times... as Dirty stated. De-stemming... can't think of a way to make it less tedious??

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kseiverd

                    I no longer make greens, as nobody in my house likes them, but I used to fill the sink, rinse, then reach under and let the water out.

                    Repeat until I could no longer feel sand or grit on the bottom of the sink.

                    Kinda low-tech, but never had gritty greens, either.

                  2. Too bad about the washing machine. Works great around here

                    1. Hmmmmm, never heard about using baking soda. Bad thing is, I have double sink but they are small so it's very time consuming to clean a lot of greens. Even considered getting a laundry screen (like for drying sweaters over bathtub) and putting greens in big laundry bag so I could spray them and get them all clean more quickly, without having to drain, rinse, repeat, and all that jazz. Maybe I need to invent a greens blaster, lol.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LeeLee2013

                        No rinse, repeat. Just fill the sink with cold water, let them soak, pull them out. Either spin them in a spinner or stick them in the fridge wrapped in a towel.
                        Unless you are doing a bushel it doesn't seem like so much work.

                      2. I now just buy them pre chopped and cleaned.

                        1. I can't see wasting a whole washing machine full of water (twice if you're using the rinse cycle) and the electricity it takes to run it just to wash greens. They are just not that dirty unless they're grown in a mud pit. Unless you are making a w. h. o. l. e. lot of them.

                          Why make it complicated? Pull the stems out, add them to a sink full of water; I use lukewarm to help remove the dirt faster. Soak them 10 minutes. Drain; repeat. Done.

                          No need to add vinegar, salt, baking soda, etc. This method is about the easiest you can do.

                          This thread does remind me of a friend years ago making greens at my house. He filled the sink up with water and a couple drops of dish soap, which I found weird. But he rinsed them well and the greens were good. I was surprised.

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: Cherylptw

                            Yes, "pull the stems out, add them to a sink full of water; I use lukewarm to help remove the dirt faster. Soak them 10 minutes. Drain; repeat. Done." this is how I learned to do them as a little tot and do to this day when I don't buy already chopped which are often cheaper.

                            1. re: Cherylptw

                              I usually just throw them in a wash tub and the hell with it. But the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta introduced me to the washing machine method years ago and I found it works great. We hve no shortage of water around here and the eleccticity is negligible..wear on the machine is the bigger worry. And I just run the rinse and spin on gentle. Nothing to it.

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                using a washing machine is brand new to me and actually made me lol. :0

                                just submerge them in a big bowl or tub and lift out, leaving the dirt behind. no way i would put dish soap on my food.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  It works very well but not needed for a few servings.(but we ALL know that you need a dump truck load to make greens for six).

                                  I don't know as to soap but I will say that Penn State did an involved study about preserving corn on the cob from field to home, protecting the sugar. The solution was an ice chest with a slurry in it..a brine..at something like 30 degrees F. To the ice chest was added a couple of tablespoons of bleach. This killed nasties but did not affect the corn. Transported and frozen, the stuff supposedly tasted great six months later.

                                  Chemistry can be good: I got rid of rodents once by a bowl of bleach--on a high place---to which I added Comet. result? Chlorine gas. Worked great. (remove all pets and people..don't do in an apartment, especially upstairs)

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    you don't use detergent with the greens -- and killing bacteria on the greens is a moot point -- boiling them for hours, as per the traditional recipe -- will more than take care of anything living on the greens prior to cooking.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      You don't have to sell me. I'd never bother with soap on them.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I thought we had put to rest once and for all the notion that greens need to be cooked forever, and that they must be cooked with meat to taste good!

                                        1. re: zoe willet

                                          you skipped right over the key part of my post -- "boiling them for hours ***as per the traditional recipe*** "

                                          You can have all my tough, bitter raw collards, turnips, and mustards -- I'm not a big fan of them stewed, but I find them nearly inedible raw or sauteed.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            No, not raw, but no need to boil them for hours, rather just maybe 15-20 mins.

                                            1. re: zoe willet

                                              No thanks -- they remain too tough, leathery, and bitter for my taste, and find they don't begin to mellow for quite a long time.

                                  2. re: hazelhurst

                                    a friend's mom used a cheesecloth bag in the dishwasher.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      and ran the dishwasher? did it have just a cold cycle? this all seems really wasteful to me, both of water and energy.

                                        1. re: firecooked

                                          Wow, the ingenuity on this thread fascinates me! Seriously, I'm impressed!

                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                          hotoy - I sorta thought so too. spinach or greens of any variety, a deep plunge, dumped and repeated 3+ times depending seemed on the stuff is so simple, easy and no grit. ehh she was of the Betty Crocker era unless we got her liquored up.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        I used to know a guy who told me that his wife as a young bride put the greens in the washing machine, as she'd been told it was a very effective way to wash away the sand.

                                        They did not, however, tell her to NOT use the spin cycle.

                                        He said it was about six months before his shirts weren't flecked with tiny little bits of green....

                                        1. re: hazelhurst

                                          I'm sure it does work good but my point is about the waste. A typical washer holds 40 gallons of water on a full load; just say one uses a smaller wash load, about 20 gallons. And the electricity it takes to run it for 20-30 minutes (rinse included). Just to wash a few greens? Just not necessary. On the other hand, if I had to feed 50 people, I might consider it.

                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                            We never do it for a small amount. We have no shortage of water and the electricity is negligible for the benefit. The greater concern is wear and tear on the machine. But we are not World saving around here. I

                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              I did have a bath tub piled up/slam full of mustard greens one time. Took 3 of us about 45 min to an hour. Of course that was washing and stripping the leaves down. ~ If there were ever a time to try the washing machine, that would have been it.

                                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                Now, if I had that amount to wash, I might have considered a washing machine...I have washed my greens outside directly after picking from the garden. My fiancé & I picked two 40 gallon trash bags full of mixed turnip, mustard & kale greens. So, using two wash tubs on the back of my fiancé's pickup truck and my huge deep turkey fryer which I filled with water and brought to boiling to blanch, we were able to quickly wash and bag the greens. I like this method; no messing up the kitchen!

                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                  You do know there are a lot of people here that have no clue what a Number 3 wash tub is. Don't you? Hahahahaha!
                                                  Good idea on the turkey fryer, and not messin up the kitchen....or the bathroom :)

                                        2. re: Cherylptw

                                          one of the issues with washing machines is that they apparently contain a lot of fecal matter. Sorry, I don't have the sources but it makes sense. I run an empty load with hot water and a bit of bleach every now and then.

                                          But I also clean "soak" my kitchen sink with a bit of bleach and lots of water before I soak the greens. Then rinse well and fill with cold water for the greens. Wait long enough and all the dirt will float to the bottom, then just lift off before draining the water and put in a colander. It's easy to cut off stems if you stack them up on your cutting board so the stems align. Much more labor intensive to strip each individually, but I've found that if you puree, you don't really need to do that step.

                                        3. I agree with soaking as the easiest cleaning method (I use a large pot or my salad spinner since my sink is, ahem, not a pristine environment. I have found that they are easier to clean if I chop them first. Swish them in the water, let the dirt settle to the bottom, then scoop them out of the water leaving the dirt behind. Also, I have found that I often don't need to destem (even kale stems ) if I slice the greens very thinly. I tried this once on a whim and was surprised to find that thinly sliced stems cook through in the same amount of time as the leaves and are not too fibrous. If it's a monstrous stem I will still remove it, but mostly I don't bother to remove the stems anymore.

                                          1. Stand at the sink. Place greens in the right side. Turn on water. Pick up one leaf. Rinse it off under the running water on the left side. Strip greens from stem. Throw greens in a colander. Leave stem in the right side. Repeat. ~ Been doing it for 50 years at least. ~ Been pulling Florida broad-leaf mustard and purple top turnips since mid October. Always pull enough for at least three or four meals, plus early on enough to put a big box in the freezer. ~ If you really love them, the time is well spent!!


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                                              that's about how I gew up doing it..but we'd make a pool of wahter and dumpt the greens in, mush them around and drain. Then rinse while we had the left side full of water. Tranfers and agitate the wash them off and strip. Kinda like doing beans or peas or polishing silver---therapeutic.

                                            2. I use a salad spinner. Picked up a like new one at a yard sale a few years back and if I had known how great it was I would paid full price and bought one a long time ago. It removes virtually all the grit and gets the greens nice and dry. I highly recommend.


                                              For removing the stems on small amounts I just fold and tear like others have posted. For large amounts I stack the leaves and use kitchen shears which makes quick work.

                                              1. Fill 2 sinks with cold water then de-stem, and de-rib at the same time. Stack leaves, fold in half, then cut along the rib to remove. While still folded cut into strips cross-wise, and push into water-filled sink straight from the cutting board. Swish, let dirt settle then into the 2nd water filled sink for an additional rinse. Dry in batches in lettuce spinner.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: letsindulge

                                                  A light rinse in vinegar water will kill a lot of 'germs' on vegetables. "But what germs?" Well, let's see. Bird poop. Cat poop/pee. Dog poop/pee. The odd human poop and pee. The germs from the field workers who didn't wash 'wash their hands' after 'going'. Common molds/mildews.
                                                  The germs from teenage boys stocking the produce shelves during the night. The sneezes. Cold/flu viruses floating around in the store.
                                                  There's some others but that's enough for now.
                                                  Wash all produce carefully. I wash all our produce in a sink full of warm water with a few drops of vinegar and a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Then a good rinse under cold water and a spin dry in a food spinner.
                                                  Just yesterday I'm in the produce section. A little girl in a shopping cart with a dripping nose and filthy hands was leaning out of the cart and playing with the bunches of carrots. 'Mom' was unconcerned b/c she was busy talking on her cell phone.

                                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                                    If you were making a salad to be eaten cold, I'd agree with you...

                                                    ...but stewing greens at a simmer for several hours? Non-issue, as the heat will kill all of the nasties you mention.

                                                    And I'm not going to consume hydrogen peroxide any time soon in any quantities -- even dilute.

                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                      Pee&Poop certainly dominate your life. You forgot the army of people that touch door knobs after going to BR.

                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                        na na na. i cant hear you i cant hear you.

                                                    2. Washing is not that awful. Just make sure you lift the greens out of the water so that the dirt stays on the bottom. Trimming is something else. Shortcuts don't work, and I don't care what anybody says. I am blessed because I live in Rome and buy broccoletti (sort of broccoli rabe) at the Testaccio market, where experts trim off about one third of the total volume and sell them ready to cook. Really they cut off almost the entire stem and then split the little bit of remaining stem. At the too-too-chic (and I hate it) San Teodoro farmers market, the greens are even fresher, but the trimming technique is cruder, and you can taste the difference. They essentially just lop off the stems.

                                                      1. Do you recall the salmonella in lettuce outbreak in Salinas, CA? Sounds like it's in people's recollection.


                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: letsindulge

                                                          lettuce is eaten raw. the greens to which the OP refers are long cooked.

                                                          1. re: magiesmom

                                                            Yes, I know. Just sayin' that MAYBE people were mixed up in their recollection. What it comes down to is that there are many methods proven, or not that people practice.

                                                        2. A good friend of mine who's Mother grew up in the South passed on a tip to her to use a scant cap full of clorine bleach to wash the greens with, and 3 rinses before cooking.

                                                          9 Replies
                                                          1. re: letsindulge

                                                            A cap full? A drop or two, maybe, for a full sink of water -- but chlorine is highly toxic.

                                                            As above -- the greens are to be cooked, so the heat will dispatch anything malignant dwelling in the greens.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              Personally I've not done this but I was simply repeating something she told me in passing.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                tap water is chlorinated in us. but a drop or 2 more in a sinkful of water wont make much difference. to purify clear water takes 4-8 drops per quart for drinking water. you can google how people treat greens in 3rd world if you are concerned. also home brewers use a chlorine solution that disinfects but does not require rinsing, i forget what the ratio is.

                                                                1. re: divadmas


                                                                  a capful in a sink full of water is still approaching toxic limits, and certainly reaches the point where things smell and taste of bleach - definitely not a desirable addition.

                                                                  and do note the mention that there are some organisms in surface water that bleach will not kill -- and that bleach will not remove chemical toxins.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    to disinfect requires a disinfecting strength solution, not something i would want to drink. you do rinse and the smell does dissipate. not something i do in the states, though. the risk of contaminated greens is small. still it is recommended that even pre washed greens be washed so i rinse with tap water. the site i mentioned above is interesting on use and limits of vinegar.
                                                                    cryptosporidia is the common bacteria that can live in straight bleach. it has a shell that protects it. there have been outbreaks but affects mostly those with compromised immune systems, like elderly or with AIDS. it can be filtered out.
                                                                    raw greens are not sterile, dont have to be. but in rare cases here in states produce can be contaminated with e coli or salmonella. unless you have a compromised immune system it is not a big worry.
                                                                    i wash also to avoid pesticides and peel non organic food like apples and potatoes.

                                                                    1. re: divadmas

                                                                      so you rinse with bleach and leave a bleach residue (because you do, no matter how well-rinsed it is), but peel other things?

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        in the states no ii only wash in tap water. maybe you should read the post?

                                                              2. re: letsindulge

                                                                This was my grandmother's method, growing up I don't remember anything she did take a cap (or a cup) of bleach too! She washed dishes with a splash of bleach in scalding hot water with lots of soap...never could figure out how she could take the bleach and the heat.

                                                                1. re: mandymoo

                                                                  at the time that was probably a good idea. not so necessary now\.

                                                              3. Here's a video showing how to strip off the stems quickly. I can prep six bunches of collards, kale or chard very quickly.

                                                                1. My method for cleaning greens is simple: 2 or 3 washes in a salad spinner (or colander in a bowl), rinsing out the bowl in between, fold & strip the stems, stack leaves, roll like a cigar, slice crosswise into the size strip desired. Easy peasy.

                                                                  I've seen Ina Garten put dripping greens in a clean pillow case and twirl it over her head. Washing machines, dishwashers, chlorine, detergent are unnecessary.

                                                                  1. I didn't think about that, Uncle Bob; I shouldn't have assumed :)

                                                                    1. I've been motivated to clean my produce more often lately after I read about the perchlorate in the jet fuel that gets dumped when airplanes are approaching airports to land. Jettisoning their extra gas makes the planes lighter and easier to land. Not sure how best to clean the produce for that, though! The info was on a list of "12 Worst Endocrine Disruptors" by the EWG.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: herbwise

                                                                        Yet another point to reinforce my zeal for buying locally grown when possible. Leafy greens grown in a four-county circle might have any number of nature's organisms and objects, but they will be free of jet chems...

                                                                        I'm a convert to stem stripping; whether I do the tub-of-water and drain or the rinse-under-running-spray first depends on the source and condition of the greens.

                                                                        1. re: herbwise

                                                                          i imagine dumping fuel at $2-3/gal is a last ditch maneuver in an emergency. normal operations probably contaminate more, you can smell the jet fuel at airports.

                                                                          1. re: herbwise

                                                                            this is not a normal or ordinary practice, only in case of emergency.

                                                                          2. I have been eating greens all my life and loving it. Fill a big bowl with water, throw some salt with or without vinegar or baking soda and let soak for five minutes. You can see some small particles at the bottom of the bowl. Try this method with cauliflower, you will see the difference. Rinse thoroughly several times. Do this with salad greens as well, but more thoroughly by going through the leaves. Not only vegetables, I do the same method with fruits that you want to eat with the skin. Enjoy -- no need using washing machine.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: roro808

                                                                              greens have been in the news quite a lot for being contaminated and causing illness. they simply have to be washed. awhile back i was reading about this issue and an epidemiologist claimed that the vinegar peroxide soak and rinse was better than plain water and better than the commercial products. organics need to be washed as well. i do the sink method (sanitized first) then rinse, the use my spinner. i agree with puffin further up in the thread re. the transmission of "nasties". can you tell that i have spent the last 3 weeks coming off of a bad virus that turned into pneumonia eventually? :(

                                                                              1. re: sinfromgin

                                                                                correlation does not prove causality.

                                                                                cooking will eliminate any of the nasties that you describe.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  o.p. did not mention cooking the greens. Also, there are so many ppl. these days eating raw greens.........I agree, I do not stress too much about germs if they are going into a soup, stew, or casserole. In a salad, different story..PS......just re-read op's post, see that she is referring to collards and mustards. So yeah, they are going to get cooked. Spinach and kale, lots of folks eating them raw. Also lots of nasty bugs turning up in spinach!