3 min read
Yellow Squash

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Those with an active green thumb may quickly find that their garden is producing more vegetables than they can handle. If you are running out of counter space, freezing your vegetable surplus is a great solution.

Bridgette Brannon, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety and quality regional agent, said freezing is a quick and easy method of food preservation.

“When done correctly, freezing is a great way to ensure quality vegetable freshness for eight to 12 months,” Brannon said. “Freezing retains the natural color, flavor, texture and nutritive value of vegetables far better than other methods of preservation.”

Freezing versus Canning

Canning is a popular method used to preserve foods. However, that process can be quite time consuming. While there are pros and cons to each method, Brannon said freezing is less time consuming and easier to do.

“The freezer is your equipment, and it does most of the work for you,” Brannon said. “All you have to do is wash, blanch, pack the food in containers and freeze.”

For example, when storing green beans, gardeners can prepare and freeze dozens of pounds of them in just a few hours. Comparatively, when canning, one can only can 14 pounds of green beans (7 quarts) in the same time frame. Brannon said that doesn’t even include the time it would take to prepare the canning equipment and jars.

“When canning, you can’t just put the jars in the canner, seal it and then leave it there until you are ready to come back,” Brannon said. “You must stay with it the whole time from start to finish.”

Vegetables You Can Freeze

A freezer full of frozen foods with labelsGardeners can freeze almost any vegetable. However, there are some vegetables that are more ideal for freezing than others are. These include corn, green beans, squash, peas, broccoli and greens such as spinach, kale and collards.

“There are a few vegetables that do not bode well in the freezer,” Brannon said. “These include cabbage, celery, cress, cucumbers, endive, lettuce, radishes and potatoes.”

When picking vegetables to freeze, time is of the essence. A good rule of thumb is to have the produce picked, prepped and packed in the freezer within two hours of picking them. In general, vegetables are better if they are picked early in the morning, right when the dew is off the vines. When picking vegetables, remember that the tender and just-matured ones are the best for freezing.

Wash, Blanch, Pack and Freeze

The first step to prepping vegetables is a thorough wash. This is the perfect time to look for and remove inferior or overly mature vegetables. After washing, the next step is blanching. This cooking method quickly cooks the vegetables in water to stop the enzyme action.

“If you do not blanch the vegetables, the enzyme action can cause the vegetables to lose flavor, color and texture in the freezer,” Brannon said.

After the vegetables are properly blanched, submerge them in water that is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This shocks the vegetables and stops the cooking process.

“After the vegetables cool, pack them as meal-size portions in moisture- and vapor-proof freezer containers,” Brannon said. “Pack the vegetables tightly so you remove as much air as possible.”

To know when the vegetables were stored, label and date the containers before putting them in the freezer. Do not overload the freezer, because this will add to the freezing times.

More in-depth freezing instructions are available in the Alabama Extension publication “Freezing Summer’s Bounty of Vegetables,” available at www.aces.edu.

A Chance to Make a Difference

In addition to freezing and storing your vegetables, you can also consider donating your extra produce through Alabama Extension’s Grow More, Give More program. This program encourages gardeners to grow and donate fresh produce to neighbors, schools, community centers, places of worship and others that are helping fight food insecurity. Visit www.aces.edu/go/GrowMore to learn more.