Freezing Vegetables From Your Garden

Round out your food preservation regimen! Use these great tips for freezing vegetables to turn your garden harvests into delicious, off-season meals.


| August/September 2013



Frozen Vegetables in Freezer Bags

By freezing vegetables, you'll be able to eat off-season, savory dishes packed with summer flavors.


Photo By Dreamstime

Freezing vegetables is a fast and easy form of food preservation, and most crops, such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, summer squash, dark leafy greens and all types of juicy berries, will actually be preserved best if frozen. Part of the beauty of freezing vegetables is that you can easily do it either in small batches — thus making good use of odds and ends from your garden — or in one big batch of your homegrown harvest or peak-season, discounted crops from the farmers market. Unlike with canning, you don’t have to pay attention to acidity or salt when freezing vegetables. Instead, you can mix and match veggies based on pleasing colors and flavors — for instance, using carrots for color, bulb fennel for texture, and green-leafed herbs for extra flavor. You can include blanched mild onions in your frozen combos (a good use for bolted onions that won’t store well), but don’t include garlic, black pepper or other “seed spices,” which can undergo unwanted flavor changes when frozen.

The greatest amount of space in my freezer belongs to vegetables, mostly in freezer bags that stack nicely because I first freeze the vegetables flat on cookie sheets. I also allot freezer space for odd-shaped packages, such as those for cabbage leaves that have been blanched and frozen flat for making cabbage rolls in winter. I even steam-blanch and freeze an assortment of hollowed-out, stuffable veggies, such as pattypan squash, zucchini, small eggplant and peppers. By season’s end, the contents of my freezer reflect the full diversity of my garden.

Freezing Vegetables: The Basics

Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes, or until they are just done. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers. Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets, and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, thus allowing you to remove a handful at a time from the container.

Unless you’re freezing liquids — which require space for expansion — you should remove as much air as possible from within the freezer container. With zip-close freezer bags, you must squeeze out the air by hand, whereas a vacuum sealer will suck out air as it seals the bags. Vacuum sealing reduces freezer burn (the formation of ice crystals that refreeze around the edges of the food and damage its taste and texture) because the crystals have no space in which to form. To read more about freezer-safe container options, see “Can You Freeze in Canning Jars?,” later in this article.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), fruits and vegetables will last in the freezer for eight to 12 months if prepared and stored properly. Vacuum-seal bags cost more than regular freezer bags, but devotees say they are worth the extra expense because they make frozen foods last even longer.

mac
4/30/2016 1:13:29 AM

There are certain vegetables we prefer canned (tomatoes, green beans, zucchini & tomatoes) and certain ones we prefer frozen (corn, greens, peas, limas). When we freeze the corn and greens we go ahead and cook them and then all we have to do is warm them when we are ready to eat them. The peas and Lima beans we just shell and put directly into the freezer. We have never had a problem doing them this way and they keep for a year or so without any problems.


katie
3/15/2016 4:32:05 PM

I read in the Nov.2015 issue about freezing corn on trays. Do you blanch the corn first? I freeze by blanching then bagging, but get a lot of liquid. Just wondered if the tray method would eliminate most of the liquid. I usually freeze 2 bushels.


barbara
7/26/2013 3:28:14 PM

lots of good info here!!  hollowed out patty pan squash freeze,.. leafs of cabbage.... veggie juices in a canning jar.... lay peppers on a cookie sheet to freeze before bagging.   All things I am going to try.   I use the water from cooking veggies for a soup base, so this is perfect.  Easier than those clumsy bags of liquid! As always, lots of usable information that I will pass on to friends.   thank you. 






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