Washing greens in the washing machine

Let me just say one thing. It was Kevin’s idea.

We’ve got four overwintered collard plants that are ready for their Little Shop of Horrors audition. Every day, they send up seed heads in what I am trying to make a vain effort to reproduce. To that end, every day I go out there with my kitchen shears and cut off the seed heads. So far, the plants haven’t gotten bitter or woody, and I treat the seed head stalks like broccoli raab.

But I know this is a battle I’m destined to lose, if not to the collards themselves then to the slugs who, unlike Kevin and me, seem more than happy to live on an all-collard diet. Before it’s too late, I have to harvest the leaves. Once I harvest them, they have to be washed, chopped, blanched, and frozen.

It is a job I dread, largely because washing greens is probably my single least favorite kitchen chore. I don’t know why I dislike it – there are a zillion jobs that are just as tedious or messy that I don’t mind at all. I’ll sit there all day taking crab meat out of crab bodies with a nutpick, but give me a lettuce to wash and I absolutely, positively, have a prior engagement.

So you can understand that a bushel of collard greens is enough to chill my very soul.

Last night, over dinner, Kevin and I were talking about how to tackle them, and my first idea was to put them in the bathtub. Kevin thought that wasn’t much of a labor-savor, and might be a turn-off to anyone who’s ever seen our bathtub. And then he said, offhandedly, “Why don’t you just do them in the washing machine?”

The washing machine! Genius! Because what is a washing machine if not a salad spinner, writ large?

I went out with my kitchen shears. I cut a bushel of leaves. I ran the washing machine empty, once, to get rid of any residual soap, and then put in my load of collards.

And I checked the dial. There’s Permanent Press, there’s Regular, there’s Whites, but there’s no Leafy Greens cycle. Delicates seemed to come closest. Compared to, say, arugula, collards aren’t delicate at all, but compared to the frilly lacy things that I gave up long ago in favor of underwear that wears well and doesn’t show the dirt, collards are delicate indeed.

Delicates it would have to be, in cold water. I closed the door, turned the dial, and started her up.

Half an hour later, I had a bushel of clean collards!

I can’t say it worked perfectly. The greens got pretty bruised, but that doesn’t matter much for greens that you’re going to blanch and freeze anyway – don’t try this with that arugula. (At least there was no ring around the collards!)  The only other problem is that it left a lot of bits of green in the washer. I left the door open for a while so they would dry, and cleaning the washing machine wasn’t nearly as bad as cleaning the collards themselves.

Kevin thinks we can get it to work better if we just do a rinse and a spin, rather than an entire wash cycle. I think he’s probably right, but I have no idea how to make our washing machine do that. Even so, I will definitely use this method again, either for collards or kale.

Kevin and I may be walking around with little flecks of green, or maybe of slug, on our clothes for a while, but that seems a small price to pay for anything that gets me out of washing collards.

35 people are having a conversation about “Washing greens in the washing machine

  1. Our condo laundry rooms have signs warning us we’ll be fined for using the machines to wash rugs. I wonder what the policy is regarding collards.

  2. I think they make bags for this…. if they don’t simply making a cotton bag would solve the bruising problem.

  3. Ingenious. And probably a better idea than poaching salmon in the dishwasher. Plus, a new pun that would make little sense in any other context. I love it!

  4. Since at least a couple of other people like the idea, perhaps we can, collectively, improve the technique.

    But I’m not sure about the cotton bag, Amanda. It would prevent bruising, but it would keep in the slugs (and insects and dirt).

    I think the more sophisticated machines allow you to do a simple rinse and spin, but I’m not about to buy a new washer just to find out.

  5. My family used to use a variation on this technique to wash spinach. Give a quick rinse to wash off the worst of the sand/dirt in the sink. Secure in a clean pillow case. Use the rinse cycle -Gentle setting. Works very well. Trick is you have to get the worst of the dirt off prior to machine.

  6. My ex-grandmother-in-law, who came from “the old country” used to use a clean toilet plunger to agitate her clothes after watching a washing machine at work. I know this sounds repulsive, but if the plunger has never been used, it would be a good way to agitate greens in a big vat of water to dislodge Then there’s the matter of drying…
    But to go back to your washing machine idea: could you save yourself having to clean out the machine if you put your greens in a mesh lingerie bag?

  7. Cool idea, but I would probably need to do a garden hose pre-rinse in order to keep the plumber away (dirt + the usual ick clogged sewer lines).
    Put boards on the ground next to your veggies. Pick ’em up in the morning, scrape the slugs off into the chicken coop. Not my idea, but I’ve heard chickens think snails and slugs are yummy.

  8. Aaron Wintersmith says:

    Some salt will help the slugs wash off better. When I’m rinsing leaves in the sink I usually include a soak in salt water. It shocks/kills the slugs and they drop to the bottom. Maybe you can add the salt like you would detergent?

  9. Aaron Wintersmith says:

    Re Rinse and Spin: When you start the machine Just turn the dial *past wash* to the rinse cycle. All machines include a post rinse spin regardless of whether it’s indicated on the dial or not.

  10. You and Kevin are officially our hero. Mike’s eyes lit up at the genius of Kevin’s idea, which just further reinforces your observation that we must never, ever leave them alone together unsupervised.

    New favourite line/escape clause: “Let me just say one thing. It was Kevin’s idea.”

  11. You might try warm water rather than cold. It seems to e that moderate heat would wilt the greens and make them less prone to bruising.

  12. I may have said it before, but now it’s emphatically: Kevin’s a fucking genius. I have a rinse and spin cycle. I have a boatload of kale plants doing the same reproductive ‘I’m-gonna-make-a-seed-head-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-do (which it will be) dance with me. Genius.

    You really need to get him working on the wood gasifier truck fuel thing.

  13. Christine H says:

    Oh my gosh, Tamar, this post it too funny. I knew it would be something with your first sentence. And you didn’t miss the pun – good for you! Thanks for the laugh — not many things make me laugh-out-loud anymore!!! 🙂

  14. That Kevin, he’s got a way with washing machines..
    Plucking Machines (remember the flaming version?) now collard washing, what will he think of next?

  15. Thanks for the enthusiasm, and the constructive suggestions — that’s my all-time favorite combination.

    I like the idea of the bag, but I need something with holes big enough to let the schmutz out but keep the collards (including the inevitable crumbs) in. I’ll be on the look-out.

    The warm water might work, Mom. After all, I’m just going to cook them anyway. But collards are pretty tough and I wonder if I need hot.

    Aaron, thanks for the tip. It’s the kind of thing that I suppose every 50-year-old should know, eh? Sometimes I wonder how I get on in the world.

    And, Paula, you don’t know what you started with that wood gas thing!

  16. I think that considering the length of time you’re bathing them hot might by excessive. You’d be washing away some of the nutrients. I’d go with warm. It’s not like you plan to eat them right out of the machine.

  17. Slugs are lushes. You can cut down the number on your collards by putting a jar with some beer in it under each of your bushes. The cheaper/raunchier the beer the better. The slugs & snails will crawl up the jar, in and float off in drunken delight.

  18. Hoosier Girl says:

    Meh. Seems like a lot of work. For kale, I just fill the sink and kind of rough them up with my hands a little, then into the pot they go. I was thinking about you last night as I tore out my 5 kale plants, which were also frantically flowering and attempting to fulfill their biological imperative. I am well and truly sick of kale, and dismayed by the huge stack of leeks in the fridge. What I could use now is a good tomato…

  19. this is so great. i just did 3 large loads of chard. ha ha. since the washing machine spun the chard so well before blanching i decided to use the washing machine for the cool down and dry. it worked great. oh my goodness, it would have taken me days to do all the chard God blessed us with this season.

  20. At least I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to consider it!! I looked it up online to see if it had been done and found this. LOL! I did three “loads” today. The first was a trial run. Then I washed the rest of my turnip greans and did a load of spinach. The washing machine kinda chopped the spinach though. So be warned… Then again, if your crazy enough to wash produce in whirlpool why not chop it there too??? Thanks for the advice!!!

  21. Dee Johnson says:

    I had heard about this awhile ago. A friend gave us a big mess of Collard greens and I wanted to try this method. I came across this post when I was searching about it. It had been so long since hearing it and I hadn’t tried it (we don’t eat a lot of greens), so I was glad to see your post. I have a top loading washer and it worked great! I put it on a delicate rinse cycle and it didn’t tear them up too much (which would have been harder to take out, lol). Thanks for the post! 🙂

  22. I’m sure the washing machine does wonders for removing sand and grit, but I tend to look for stuck on insect eggs and such while hand washing greens. The machine is not going to remove those.

  23. I dont think that this method is sanitary…..putting collard greens in a washing machine that has a drum that carries feces and urine is too much for me even if you dissenfect it with chlorox. Washing with salt water a nd then rinsing them off several times is good enough.

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