If your household is anything like ours, you’re elbow-deep in vegetables from your garden right about now. And if you have more fresh produce than you know what to do with, it’s important to store them correctly. Honestly, although I love canning and preserving, when I’m in a rush frozen veggies is my best solution for an overabundance of fresh garden vegetables.
Here are a few tips to help you freeze your vegetables so they taste great.
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Why Frozen Veggies?
Frozen vegetables help busy families quickly store excess fresh vegetables to use later. These days, many of us feel worried about securing our family’s food supply. And freezing, canning, dehydrating, and even smoking food helps to preserve it for later. It's a great way to store your vegetable harvest without a root cellar.
Freezing vegetables from your garden makes it easy to add a vegetable side dish to a roast chicken dinner, steak, or pork dinner. However, sometimes I freeze vegetables when I just don’t have time to can or preserve them right away. Or I’ll make a quick batch of pickled vegetables to slide into the fridge.
The first year I had a large garden I made the newbie garden harvesting mistake of NOT succession planting. So a whole bunch of our vegetables was ready to harvest at the same time! Thankfully, I had the option to store bags of them in a friend’s freezer. (Note: my family lives off the grid. And freezers use a ton of energy, which doesn’t always work well with our solar panel and battery system.)
You might be surprised at the number of fruit and vegetables you can freeze. Freeze many varieties as is. Just throw them into a reusable freezer bag and put them in the freezer. Or wash and chop them into a form that’s easy to pull out and cook with down the road.
Cutting fruits and vegetables also allows you to pack them in tighter. And this saves space in your freezer.
Which Vegetables and Fruits To Freeze As-Is?
Some of the vegetables and fruits to freeze without any special preparation include most varieties of berries. They are some of the easiest fruits to freeze.
Freeze them whole and separate on cookie sheets. Once completely frozen, store them in one-cup or two-cup portions in freezer bags. And then pour your frozen veggies or fruit out as needed to top oatmeal, make smoothies, or bake a pie.
Peaches, bananas, and pineapple also freeze well as is. However, you might find it trickier to work with them once they thaw.
Instead, peel, and chop them first. Apples and pears don’t freeze well unless you turn them into pie filling first. Grapes can be frozen, but don’t thaw well. If you have too many grapes, toss them in the freezer and eat them frozen. We like to use them in place of ice cubes when making smoothies.
Note: for more information on best practices with blanching fresh vegetables, visit University of Wisconsin-Madison Safe & Healthy Food for Your Family.
Frozen Veggies That Need Rinsing or Blanching
Some vegetables need some prep work prior to freezing. For example, our low maintenance garden produces green beans, peas, squash, and cauliflower. These all freeze very well once they get rinsed, blanched, and chopped. Again, I usually store these in one-cup freezer bag portions. That makes it easy to grab a bag or two to add to soups, stews, or stir-fries.
Note: Wondering how long to blanch your veggies? Grab my free Vegetable Blanching Cheat Sheet right here.
How to Freeze Broccoli
Several friends have asked me about freezing broccoli. I simply rinse it, chop it, and blanch it. And then I portion the florets separately from the stems. I do keep the stems because we like them in stir-fries.
If you see it in the frozen veggies food section at the grocery store, chances are it will freeze well. Just rinse the produce as it comes out of the garden or from the farmers market, chop it and put it in freezer bags.
Can I Freeze Potatoes?
Yes, you can freeze potatoes if you peel and grate them first. I also freeze cooked mashed potatoes as the topping to my shepherd’s pie recipe. However, I do find the consistency changes during freezing.
Freezing Vegetables From The Store
Not everyone has the space to plan a garden. Maybe you’re just getting started homesteading and you’re garden hasn’t yet started producing. Or maybe you’re an apartment homesteader. In that case, watch out for specials on seasonal fresh produce at your local grocery store.
Freezing and preserving local seasonal food can help you save money, support local businesses, and eat healthier too.
Can I Freeze Tomatoes?
Do you have too many tomatoes? We use a TON of tomatoes in our home. All of us love them eating fresh, as well as the base for sauces and soups. However, harvesting tomatoes may leave you feeling overwhelmed - especially when you get a bumper crop.
Can I freeze tomatoes? I’m so glad you asked. YES! Go ahead and freeze those tomatoes. But read this first - because the type of tomato makes a difference as to how successful your ‘freezing fresh tomatoes’ activities will be. And don't forget to save your tomato seeds to plant for next year.
When I don’t have the time to use, to blanch them, or prepare them into salsa, soup, or canned tomatoes, I freeze them whole in freezer bags. However, take note. Tomatoes with high moisture content, like beefsteaks, get kind of mushy in the freezer. However, this makes them perfect for stewed tomatoes, chili recipes or soup recipes like my big batch ham and black bean soup.
Firmer tomatoes, such as Romas, hold their shape better when frozen. I like these for making a quick bruschetta.
Grab a container of frozen tomato soup, slowly heat it up on the stove while you make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches, and dinner is done. And thereís nothing more convenient than a batch of tomato sauce to pull together a quick dinner.
How to Freeze Fresh Herbs
Got an outdoor or indoor herb garden? Although I prefer dehydrating foods like herbs and greens, fresh herbs can also be frozen, but they can be a little tricky. The easiest way to do it is to wash and chop your herbs and scoop them into ice cube trays. Top them with water, chicken broth, or olive oil and freeze until solid.
At that point, just pop them out of the ice cube tray and put them in a freezer bag for longer storage. Rinse and repeat as needed. Throughout the year whenever you want to add some "oomph" to the flavor of a dish, just add one of the frozen herb cubes to the pot.
Freeze Your Fresh Veggies In a Homemade Soup
Last but not least, try making your favorite freezer-friendly meals with the leftover produce. Soups and stews work really well as do pot pies and casseroles. Cook up a big batch of chili or vegetable soup. Serve some for dinner and freeze the rest for a rainy day.
Got any tips for extending your food stores with frozen veggies? I'd love to hear them. Go ahead and share them down below!
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This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop #302.