There are lots of ways to preserve your garden-fresh vegetables, so your family can enjoy them for months to come. We do a lot of canning and dehydrating on our homestead, but some vegetables have a better taste and texture when they’re frozen. As an added bonus, freezing is usually faster and easier, which is a nice bonus when you have an abundant harvest coming in all at once.
Tips for Freezing Your Garden Vegetables
Although freezing is a relatively simple process, there are some things you should keep in mind to ensure the best results.
- Don’t try to freeze vegetables that are past their prime. If they’ve been sitting in your refrigerator for a week, or they’re overripe, they won’t have the best taste or texture when you thaw them. In this case, you’re better off using them right away for the best result.
- Many veggies should be steamed or blanched quickly before freezing, and there’s a good reason for it. The enzymes inside the vegetables begin to break down immediately upon harvesting, which leads to a loss of flavor and nutrients. Blanching or steaming deactivates the enzymes so they won’t keep working on your vegetables once they’re put up in your freezer.
- Vacuum sealing is an excellent way to package vegetables for freezing. When you eliminate all air from the packaging, it prevents freezer burn, so your harvest has a fresher taste. If you don’t want to invest in a vacuum sealer, zip-top freezer bags are the next best option. Try closing the bag most of the way and then using a straw to suck out any remaining air.
- When freezing vegetables for your family, it’s best to freeze them in meal size batches. That way, you can thaw out one package at a time and have exactly what you need without any waste. It’s not easy to re-seal packages of frozen food, and you don’t want to risk the rest of the vegetables in the package getting freezer burnt. This is also a great way to calculate how many meals you’ll be able to prepare from your frozen produce, so you can plan accordingly.
- While the process of freezing your vegetables is fast and easy, keep in mind that electricity is a must to prevent spoilage. If your freezer goes out or you have a power outage, you stand to lose all your hard work. Although I do prefer the taste of certain vegetables frozen over canned or dehydrated, we always do a combination of all three methods, just to be on the safe side.
Which Vegetables Freeze Best?
Most vegetables can be frozen, as long as you prepare them properly first. But, in my opinion, some vegetables lend themselves better to freezing than any other preservation method.
Greens: Hearty greens like spinach, collards, and kale are great frozen if you plan to use them in your cooking over the winter. They can be served sautéed as a side dish or added to other dishes like casseroles, soups, stews, and sauces. We especially enjoy them in stir-fry and lasagna. When choosing leaves to freeze, makes sure they are well-developed, but not overly mature or they’ll be tough. Choose leaves with very mineral pest damage. To prepare greens for freezing, remove any thick stems and chop into bite-sized pieces. Blanch for two minutes, plunge into ice water, and dry. Freeze in an airtight container in serving size portions.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash: We live in a climate that doesn’t stay consistently cold through the winter, root cellaring our pumpkins and winter squash isn’t an excellent option for us. Instead, these vegetables get roasted and then pureed in the food processor before freezing portion sizes in airtight containers. This saves time when making pies and soups over the winter. It tastes a million times better than store-bought canned pumpkin and has a much deeper flavor that’s delicious in recipes. Even if I could get away with storing these vegetables in a root cellar, I would probably still preserve some with this method.
Corn: If you’ve never had corn that’s been frozen fresh right off the cob, you won’t believe how much better it tastes than store-bought frozen corn. It’s very easy to cut corn off the cob at its peak of freshness and bag it up for the freezer. We blanch first, ice water bath and then cut it off the cob. Some people freeze it right on the cob but keep in mind that it will take up a lot more room in your freezer that way.
Cherry Tomatoes: Many people are quite surprised to find out that we freeze a lot of cherry tomatoes every year. We use our paste tomatoes to can tomato sauce, salsa, and other tomato products, but cherry tomatoes aren’t great for those things. Not to mention that cherry tomatoes are incredibly prolific, and we have a hard time using them up fresh. I do dehydrate some of them, but I also like to freeze a lot of them in gallon-sized zip-top bags. I don’t worry about blanching them first, but I do freeze them on trays before putting them in the bags, so they don’t stick together in the freezer. My favorite way to use them is to sauté them in a pan for fresh tasting tomato sauce. The sauce is a delicious treat over homemade egg noodles when you’re not getting a lot of fresh foods in the winter.
Green Beans: We freeze a ton of green beans over the summer. I do like the taste of home-canned green beans, but frozen ones are as close to fresh tasting as you can get. They are simply delicious when you steam them lightly and season with salt, pepper, and butter. The green beans you freeze should be young and tender, but not too small, or they will overcook when you blanch them. Beans that are too big will be tough. We blanch ours quickly, chill in ice water, dry, and freeze immediately in airtight containers.
Having a fully stocked freezer over the winter is a true blessing. Not only does your home-grown food taste better, but you’ll also save money at the grocery store because you won’t be paying higher prices for out-of-season produce. It will be a lot of work, but you’ll be so glad you did it when you’re serving those delicious veggies to your family over the winter.