If you have attempted to preserve your favorite garden goodies then you know there are some that keep well and some that do not. Root vegetables and winter squash notoriously have a lengthy shelf life (for produce), but for some crops a cool dry storage area just isn’t enough. Fortunately, in 1940 the United States was introduced to home freezer units.
I know what you’re thinking…pickling, canning and dehydrating are amongst a laundry list of pre-freezer ways to store vegetables. This is true, and our household implements many of these methods, but these practices also have limitations. Don’t get me wrong, freezing is not for all types of produce. That being said, no sodium or citric acid is required for freezing vegetables so if you’re looking for a minimalist approach that works for an assortment of crops, freezing may be a simple solution. Keep in mind that there is one significant drawback — you need a freezer big enough to house your goods.
I am going to provide two easy methods that I have used for processing frozen fruits and vegetables as well as some crops that I know freeze well, and some that I know do not. Ultimately, I only freeze produce that I intend to cook upon thawing so it is not critical that they be sterile when they go into the freezer but I do like to take precautions.
This process is defined by Oxford as “[to] briefly immerse (an item of food) in boiling water…” After my vegetables have been washed and prepared in the way I prefer, (example: I peel my carrots and slice them.) I bring my pot of water to a rapid boil and submerge my vegetables. According to the World Health Organization, most common pathogens are killed or inactivated in less than one minute at 100 degrees Celsius (boiling).* After 60 seconds I remove my veggies (I use a stainless steel mesh strainer that also gets submerged for easy extraction) and let them cool for 2-3 minutes. They are then bagged in usable portions and put in the freezer. No preservatives, just frozen vegetables.
Some fruits and vegetables are not tolerant of blanching. For these crops, there is vinegar. White vinegar typically falls in the range of 5-10% acetic acid by volume and has been shown by numerous research groups to kill many common bacteria and inactivate viruses such as influenza.** I make up a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and cold water. My prepped fruits and/or vegetables are then soaked in this solution for 10 minutes, after which I rinse them thoroughly with cold water before I proceed to bag and freeze. No, they do not taste like vinegar when I thaw and cook them.
1. Of these two processes, blanching is a significantly more effective anti-microbial method but, in a pinch, vinegar will do.
2. I have used both ZipLoc freezer bags and a vacuum sealer and have found that vacuum sealing provides a longer freezer life. In my experience, ZipLoc usually gives you 2-3 months of reliable storage before freezer burn sets in, while vacuum sealed bags can last up to 6 months.
3. Good for freezing – beans, peas, carrots, peppers (I like to cut up peppers and onions and freeze a mix for fajitas and topping sausages and brats), berries, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, asparagus, herbs, brussels sprouts, corn (I cut mine off the cob before freezing), apples and pie pumpkins.
4. Bad for freezing – Eggplant and summer squashes turn to mush. It’s gross, take my word for it. Greens such as lettuce are also undesirable, although firmer greens like spinach and kale, that are enjoyable when cooked, can be done if prepped properly. There is a reason cucumbers are pickled and not frozen. Melons = no, unless you plan on turning them into frozen margaritas…you’re right…after further consideration, I can see the potential.
5. There are a number of non-root vegetables that are not listed in notes 3 or 4 and that is because they are not things that I have tried to preserve myself and I therefore cannot provide personal testimony. If you have attempted others please share your experiences with us in the comments below!
At this point I’d like to say that this post was inspired by my mother, who asked what types of crops I preserve by freezing. If you have questions or topics that you feel other gardeners may find useful, feel free to make suggestions via my contact page. If you are curious there is a good chance that you are not alone and an even better chance that the gardening community can help. Cheers, friends!