AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – From tomatoes to squash, summer is filled with a wonderful bounty of garden vegetables. Wouldn’t it be great to have these fresh vegetables all year long? Luckily, people can freeze fresh produce from the local markets or homegrown vegetables this summer and enjoy it throughout the fall and winter.
Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension food safety and quality regional agent, said that when done correctly, freezing is a great way to have fresh vegetables year-round
“When properly selected, prepared and stored, vegetables hold their fresh qualities for about a year,” Hall said. “The flavor, texture and nutritional value doesn’t change.”
The best vegetables to freeze are ones that are tender and just matured. The fresher the vegetable, the better it is after freezing. The rule of thumb is to have vegetables prepped, packed and in the freezer within two hours of picking them.
The first step to prepping vegetables is to wash them thoroughly. While washing, look for inferior vegetables or overly mature ones and lay them aside. Hall said after washing the vegetables, blanching them is the next step.
“Properly blanching vegetables is a must,” she said “This stops the enzymes from destroying the fresh flavor of the vegetables, while also removing bacteria.”
After blanching, cool the vegetables down quickly to stop the cooking process. This is sometimes known as “shocking”.
“To cool the vegetables, submerge them into cold water that is at least 60ºF or below,” Hall said. “Blanching and cooling should take about the same length of time.”
Packing and Storing
When packing vegetables, choosing the correct container is important. Pack meal-size portions of vegetables firmly in moisture-vapor-resistant freezer containers. Also, use containers that are odor free, crack proof at zero degrees and grease resistant.
“If you are packing butterbeans, peas or snap beans, add enough cold water to just cover the vegetable,” Hall said. “Be sure to leave three-fourths to one inch of space at the top of the container.”
Before placing in the freezer, be sure to write the name of the vegetable and the date on the container. Place the containers in the coldest part of the freezer and store at zero degrees or below.
Alabama Extension has the publication Freezing Summer’s Bounty of Vegetables that includes information and the steps necessary to successfully freeze and store vegetables. For more information, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.