With back- to-school activities starting the vegetable garden can be forgotten in the midst of all the activity. Maintaining a vegetable garden this time of year is relatively easy compared to the other seasons so continue to keep up with the harvesting chores. If you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to use your fresh produce from the garden consider freezing them for use during the winter months. Here are some general guidelines for freezing an overabundance of fresh vegetables.
Many vegetables retain better color and flavor and more nutrients in the freezer by using a technique called “blanching.” Blanching stops enzymes from developing during storage which can degrade a vegetable’s quality. Blanching is done by plunging fresh produce into boiling water for a short time then cooling the vegetables off under cold running water or in an ice bath. The produce is then ready for freezer storage in plastic freezer bags, plastic containers or wide mouth glass jars.
Make sure vegetables have reached optimal maturity by letting them stay on the vine until fully ripened. Sort through and wash all vegetables before freezing. Remove blemishes, bruises and stems. Peel or trim further if necessary and cut into smaller pieces if desired.
To blanch vegetables fill a large pot with a tight fitting lid with water. Use one gallon water to 1 pound of vegetables or 2 gallons water to 1 pound of leafy greens. Bring to a rolling boil. Place vegetables in pot (basket is helpful) and place lid on pot. Begin timing when vegetables are placed in water (times are below). Remove vegetables from pot and place under cold running water or in an ice bath to cool. Drain away excess water and place in a freezer container. If you want the vegetables to be separated for ease of use, first freeze flat on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap and then place in a freezer container.
Green beans: 3 minutes
Carrots: 2 minutes
Corn (On the cob): 9 minutes
Corn (Whole kernel or cream style): 4 minutes
Onions (Chopped): 1 minute; May also be frozen unblanched
Peppers (Sweet):2 minutes; Remove seeds before blanching. May also be frozen unblanched
Peppers (Hot): Broil (no blanching) for 6-8 minutes to loosen skins, peel and seed with rubber gloves
Swiss chard: 3 minutes
Squash (Summer or Zucchini sliced into rounds): 3 minutes
Tomatoes: Blanch until skin is loosened slightly. Remove skin and cut into quarters. Scrape out seeds
Many fresh herbs can also be frozen. Wash off, pat dry and wrap a few leaves or sprigs in freezer wrap for further storage in a freezer container.