How to Freeze your Garden Fresh Vegetable

How to Freeze and Keep the Vegetables You’ve Grown

Your garden is bursting at its white-picket-fence line with all its bright and colorful bounty, just waiting for you to get busy. How does one go about harvesting and storing all those delicious, healthful vegetables? Freeze them! Here in this article we will unearth a common- sense approach to preparing and freezing the luscious rewards of your gardening labor. We will examine freezing peas, carrots, zucchini, sweet corn, and green beans, thus covering a wide array of garden produce.

Always look for fully mature items to harvest.
Some harvesting tips:

-Peas and green beans should have at least 6 to 8 beans in each pod/shell and be plump as well as crisp. Pull a few pods/beans off random plants and test for these things. Peas mature much faster and will be ready to harvest long before any beans have formed.

-Carrots are ready to harvest when you can just see some orange tops above the soil. Harvest when the carrots are at peak condition. Young, small to medium-sized carrots are the sweetest. Older carrots may get withered and soggy or become woody. Pull a few “test” carrots and do a crispness test by breaking them in half. Peak quality items should resist and then have a nice snap when it does break. To freeze, harvest carrots that are four to six inches long and about as big around as your index finger (1 to 2 inches). Carrots of this size will be tender but firm, and perfect for freezing.

-Zucchini plants will garner you bushels of tender, thin-skinned, dark green or speckled produce. Be careful not to over-plant or you will have far too many-and your neighbors will get tired of seeing you coming to their doors with more zucchinis! One or two plants will produce all the squash you can eat, bake, freeze, or give away. Zucchinis should be harvested while young and slender. The best zucchinis are small, about six inches in length. Pick them often and be sure to use this delicious vegetable when fresh.

-Sweet corn is a late summer-treat that can be frozen at its peak of freshness and enjoyed all winter long. Harvest when silks have turned brown and dry; this is when sweet corn is ripe.

Supplies needed:

Clear plastic zip-lock or twist-tie bags, or
Plastic (Tupperware or Rubber-Maid) containers with lids, or
Clear plastic vacuum-seal bags, such as Seal-A-Meal. This method of bagging is highly recommended; it is easy to use and removal of all the air from the bags guards against freezer-burn and adds greatly to the lifespan of your frozen produce.

Large, deep stockpot or canner for blanching. To blanch: plunge the produce into boiling water and allow to simmer for 1 minute. Remove and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry well.

How to freeze fresh vegetables:
1. Pick at peak ripeness and process the same day you harvest the vegetables. Do not pick more than you can process in one day. Every hour you delay robs the produce of its fresh taste and nutrition.
2. Wash all produce before processing.
3. Most vegetables do not need to be peeled before freezing. Peas and beans may need to be shelled or “snapped”, if you prefer, but is optional. Corn can be shucked, or it can be frozen within its husks.
4. Blanching is recommended for all items before placing in bags or containers. Adequate draining is imperative; any water left on the vegetables may promote freezer-burn or cause ice crystals to form inside the container.
5. Place the vegetables in bags/containers, remove as much air as possible, and seal. Produce is measured by the serving, so allow to 4 to 6 servings per container.
6. Immediately place processed/bagged produce into the freezer in a single layer. After the items have frozen completely, they can be stacked for convenience.

Hint: Loose peas/beans/corn kernels or sliced carrots/zucchini can be poured in a single layer onto cookie sheets and placed in the freezer until completely frozen. Simply measure the amount you want in each bag and, while still frozen, place in containers. Return immediately to the freezer.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions if using a vacuum sealer and always use the recommended bags for optimum Seal-a-Meal freezing success.

Protect the nutritional value and fresh-picked taste of your hard-to-come-by garden produce by following these few simple hints and techniques. Always process when at the peak of perfection and your garden vegetables will reward you all winter long with great taste and superior nourishment.

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