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Freeze the Season: How to Preserve Your CSA Produce for Later

We’ll show you how to freeze vegetables the right way so you can make the most of your CSA membership and enjoy delicious and nutritious meals all year round.
February 21, 2024

If you’re a member of the Green Heart Garden CSA, you know the joy of receiving a regular share of fresh, local, and seasonal produce. But you may also face the challenge of using up all that bounty before it goes bad. Or maybe you want to enjoy the taste of summer in the middle of winter, when fresh vegetables are scarce and expensive.

One solution is to freeze your vegetables and store them for later use. Freezing vegetables effectively preserves them at the peak of freshness, provided it’s done properly. If vegetables are not properly prepared before freezing, then you might end up with mushy, flavorless, or spoiled produce.

We’ll show you how to freeze vegetables the right way so you can make the most of your CSA membership and enjoy delicious and nutritious meals all year round.

The Basic Steps of Freezing Vegetables

Step 1: Washing

Wash your vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt, insects, or pesticides. Trim and discard any bruised, damaged, or other undesirable parts, like the ends of green beans or asparagus. If it’s not a piece you’d be happy to eat, give it a good home in your compost bin!

If you’re working with a veggie that doesn’t need any cooking before they’re frozen, be sure to dry them thoroughly. You want as little extra moisture as possible.

Step 2: Cutting

Cut your vegetables into uniform pieces, according to your preference and how you plan to use them later. Smaller pieces freeze faster and more evenly than larger ones.

Step 3: Blanching

Blanching is the process of briefly cooking vegetables in boiling water or steam, then plunging them into ice water to stop the cooking. Blanching prevents enzymes from damaging the color, flavor, and nutrients of the vegetables. It also kills any microorganisms that might cause spoilage.

Step 4: Freezing and Packing

After blanching and cooling, drain and dry your vegetables well. Flash freeze them by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing them until firm. This prevents them from sticking together in clumps.

Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags, vacuum seal bags, or other freezer-friendly air-tight containers, leaving some headspace for expansion. Label and date your packages and store them in the coldest part of your freezer.

General Tips for Freezing Produce

Freezing raw: While most veggies need to be blanched or cooked first, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and most fresh fruits can be frozen raw. In fact, most of these would turn out mushy when you defrost them if you try to blanch them first.

Some need more than blanching: Leafy greens, mushrooms, and eggplant, need to be cooked before freezing, as blanching alone is not enough to preserve their quality. Also, dense, starchy items like sweet potatoes and fall squashes tend to take on an unpleasant texture if frozen raw. You can sauté, roast, or steam them, then cool and pack them as usual.

More robust washing: Things like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, need to be soaked in salt water before blanching, to remove any insects or worms that may be hiding in the florets.

Don’t Overcrowd: Overcrowding the pot or steamer basket will result in uneven cooking and cooling, so it’s best to work in batches if you’re freezing a lot at once.

Check the Dates: Properly frozen produce can last in your freezer for 6 – 12 months. Be sure to regularly check the dates to ensure you’re using them up before they’re past their prime.

What Equipment You’ll Need

Blanching Equipment: You’ll need a large stock pot for sure, and a steamer basket if you’re planning on steam blanching. A large slotted spoon or colander is a must if you’re using the boil method. And, you’ll need a large container for your ice bath.

Baking sheets: If you’re planning to freeze a lot of produce, then you’ll need a lot of baking sheets. Also, lining the sheets with some parchment paper, wax paper, or silicon baking mats will ensure your produce doesn’t get stuck to the metal baking sheets.

Freezer-Friendly Containers: There’s a wide variety of options here, so you’ll need to do your research to figure out which is best for you. You could opt for freezer bags, lidded plastic containers, or even vacuum seal bags (these do great at eliminating freezer burn).

One thing to consider is the amount of waste that your container will create. Most lidded plastic containers can be washed and reused. Most traditional freezer bags and vacuum seal bags cannot, however, there are some reusable options out there for both of these.

Most glass containers are not freezer safe, so you’ll want to check to make sure the glass is tempered before popping in there. Also, since the liquid in your produce or cooked food will expand as it freezes, make sure that you leave a lot of head space otherwise you’ll end up picking shattered glass out of your freezer.

Bag Holders: If you’re using any kind of bag to freeze your produce in, you might want to invest in some holders. They’ll keep your bags upright and held open while you fill them. This may not be as important if you’re just freezing loose, blanched produce, but if your filling bags full of soups, stews, or other cooked dishes, these really are a life saver.

What Can’t You Freeze?

Some produce has too high of a water content and just don’t hold up well to freezing. They end up soggy when you defrost them. So, avoid freezing high moisture items like lettuces, celery, cucumbers, and radishes.

How to Use Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are best used within 6 to 12 months, depending on the type and quality of the vegetable. To use frozen vegetables, you can either thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, or cook them directly from frozen. Do not thaw frozen vegetables at room temperature, as this may cause bacterial growth and spoilage.

Frozen vegetables can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries, salads, and more. You can also puree them to make sauces, dips, or smoothies.

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