Freezing Garden Vegetables

Preserve your harvest by learning how to freeze vegetables.

There’s nothing quite like fresh, crisp veggies straight from the garden. But by late summer, you may be up to your ears in peppers, broccoli or beans. So what will you do with all those extras? Freeze ’em! It’s easier and faster than canning—all you need is a little freezer space to enjoy tasty veggies year-round.

Time is of the essence. Make sure you’re ready to freeze your harvest immediately after you pick it. The longer it sits, the more flavor and nutritional value it loses.

If you can’t freeze your vegetables right away, store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to start the freezing process.

Be prepared.
Even though your crop isn’t going directly into your mouth, it should be washed before you get started.

After the vegetables are washed, cut them into small pieces. Think about how you’ll use each veggie and cut it accordingly. Prepare it for freezing just as you would if you were going to put it on the table.

Blanch away.
Think you can just throw your veggies into the freezer? Not so fast. Raw vegetables need to be blanched first.

Blanching stops the active enzymes that determine the color and flavor of the vegetables. All it takes is putting your produce in boiling water for a bit.

Generally, a gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetables is sufficient. Use a blancher, or find a wire basket that fits in a large pot with a lid. Fill the basket with the prepared veggies and plunge into boiling water.

Cool down.
Immediately after the veggies are done blanching, plunge them into a bowl of ice water to cool. Keep them in there for the same amount of time they were in the boiling water. Drain them once they’re cooled, and get ready to pack them away.

Use the right container.
It may not seem important, but the container in which you freeze your precious bounty is actually crucial. For best results, the container should be smaller than a half-gallon. For a top-notch thawed product, smaller is ideal.

Your best bet is to use plastic containers or resealable freezer bags. Plastic containers are handy because they stack well in the freezer. For vegetables with odd sizes or shapes,
a freezer bag works like a charm.

No matter what container you choose, make sure it’s firmly sealed and tightly packed. Freezer burn can damage food that hasn’t been properly wrapped. And don’t forget to label the package with the date.

Eat it while it’s fresh.
Food in the freezer doesn’t last forever. It’s best to use your frozen harvest within eight to 12 months for the best flavor and highest level of nutrients. And by that time, you’ll have a whole new harvest!