Nothing quite compares to the taste of homegrown produce picked fresh from the garden.
But when the growing season is over, the next best thing is having your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables and fruits to use throughout the winter.
There are multiple ways to preserve your garden harvest, but learning how to freeze vegetables and fruits is an easy and inexpensive method of food preservation and an excellent place for beginners to start!
How to Freeze Fresh Vegetables and Fruit from the Garden
Although fruits and vegetables vary considerably in shape, size, texture and density, it’s safe to say that you can freeze just about anything you grow in the garden—from leafy greens and herbs like basil to sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash!
Follow these tips for freezing fruits and vegetables to get started.
- Choose produce to freeze. To ensure fruits and vegetables maintain their nutrients and quality, always choose whole, fully ripe produce to freeze.
- Chop fruits and vegetables, if needed. Some produce like peas or blueberries won’t need to be cut prior to freezing. But with vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes, you’ll need to chop first.
- Blanch and shock your vegetables before freezing. This helps to cleanse and preserve the quality and nutrients of vegetables. (More on how to do this below.)
- Wash and dry fruits before freezing. Fruits tend to be more delicate than vegetables, so you can skip the blanching/shocking process and simply wash and dry fruit before freezing it.
- Spread out your produce. To achieve the best results, spread the pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer before sticking them in the freezer. This allows the fruit and vegetable pieces to freeze quicker, giving you the best results.
- Freeze for several hours at zero degrees Fahrenheit. The time it takes for fruits and vegetables to freeze solid depends on what you’re freezing and the space in your freezer. Typically, four hours in the freezer does the trick.
- Store in air-tight containers. Once the produce is frozen solid, transfer your produce into air-tight containers or freezer bags and remove as much air as possible before sealing the container.
- Don’t forget to label and date. Be sure to label and date your containers with the produce name and the date of freezing.
And, that’s all there is to it. You don’t need a lot of expensive supplies or fancy tools to fill your freezer with vegetables and fruits picked straight from your garden!
How to Blanch Vegetables for Freezing
Blanching and shocking vegetables is a time-tested method of setting a vegetable’s color, texture, and nutrients before freezing it.
Blanch vegetables for freezing by quickly submerging the vegetables in boiling water to activate the cooking process. Shocking is done then by immersing the blanched vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process, further enhancing the crispness of the vegetables.
Follow these steps to blanch and shock vegetables before freezing:
- Wash and dry the vegetables.
- Peel or cut the outer skin off.
- Chop vegetables, removing any seeds if needed.
- Place the vegetables in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables from the boiling water to a bowl of ice water for another 3-5 minutes.
- Scoop the vegetables from the ice water and place them on a baking sheet for freezing.
Blanching and shocking vegetables is a quick process. Make sure you set aside time and space without distractions to avoid over-blanching the vegetables.
Can You Freeze Fresh Vegetables Without Blanching?
It isn’t necessary to blanch and shock some denser vegetables like winter squashes before freezing since they can withstand the freezing process without losing much of their form.
However, I prefer to blanch all vegetables before freezing simply to ensure the quality of the food I’ve spent so much time and energy growing, harvesting, and preserving.
I guarantee you’ll enjoy the quality of your frozen produce that much more if you make time for this added step.
Freezing Vegetables Chart
Want a quick reference chart for freezing vegetables? Grab it below.
Can You Freeze Vegetables and Fruit from the Store?
You don’t have to limit yourself to only freezing vegetables and fruits from your garden. You can purchase fruit and vegetables from the store or a farmer’s market to freeze.
For beginners looking to learn the basics of food preservation or someone whose garden didn’t do as well as they were hoping, this can be an excellent option.
Your homesteading goals may someday include growing and preserving a majority of the food you eat, but everyone has to start somewhere. And, if freezing store-bought fruits and vegetables helps you save money and eat healthy while learning a new skill, then I say go for it!
How to Package Fruits and Vegetables for the Freezer
Following the steps I outlined above will ensure your frozen produce maintains its quality and nutrients over time.
But another essential step is to properly package fruit and vegetables for long-term freezing. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:
- Work quickly. Once your fruit or vegetables are frozen solid, it’s crucial to quickly transfer them from baking trays into sealable containers. The last thing you want is for the produce to start thawing before you can get it packaged and back in the freezer. Have your storage containers out and ready before everything is frozen.
- Use glass or plastic containers. For long-term freezer storage, you should use glass or plastic airtight containers. These might be plastic tubs, freezer bags, or wide-mouth glass canning jars. Avoid using cardboard containers and narrow-mouth glass jars as they are prone to cracking at low temperatures.
- Clean and dry. Before sealing your containers, be sure that they are clean and dry. This helps to avoid any moisture or bacteria from spoiling all of your hard work.
As you prepare to freeze fresh vegetables and fruits from your garden, keep these packaging tips in mind to achieve the best results.
How Long Will Garden Produce Last in the Freezer?
So just how long can you keep frozen vegetables and fruits in the freezer?
The general rule of thumb is that frozen fruits and vegetables will last for eight to 12 months in your freezer. But don’t throw fruits and vegetables out simply based on that.
Often, your frozen produce will still be edible for up to 18 months after preservation. Frozen corn might lose a bit of its color or flavor after a year in the freezer, but it would still be just fine to add it into a hearty chili or casserole dish.
Use your judgment to determine when your frozen produce has reached the end of its shelf life. Keeping an inventory of what you have on hand in the freezer can help you use what you have available and avoid waste.
How to Use Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
In most cases, you can pull frozen vegetables straight from your freezer to add to soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, and smoothies. You can also try roasting, sauteing, or mashing them—no thawing required.
A few delicious recipes you might want to try cooking with frozen vegetables include:
- Chicken Rice and Broccoli Casserole
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Easy Roasted Green Beans
- Frozen Vegetable Stir Fry
It’s important to remember that frozen vegetables will add extra water to your dish as the produce thaws during the cooking process. Consider adding less water or broth to stews and soups if you plan to add a lot of frozen vegetables.
Using Frozen Fruit
As frozen fruit thaws, it doesn’t hold its shape or texture well. Yet, frozen fruit is extremely versatile and can be used to make some delicious and healthy recipes!
You can toss frozen fruit straight from the freezer into smoothies and dessert recipes like blueberry peach cobbler or gluten-free apple crisp. You might even try making these tasty fruit leathers from frozen fruit!
But if you’re looking to add frozen fruit to oatmeal, granola, yogurt, or baked goods like muffins, you’ll likely want to thaw the fruit first. You can thaw frozen fruit:
- In the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
- By placing the frozen fruit container in a bowl of cold water for several minutes.
- In the microwave. Spread the fruit on a paper towel-lined plate and set the microwave for 30-second intervals until the fruit is thawed.
Once the frozen fruit thaws, strain any water or juice. Add it to your dish or recipe for a garden-fresh meal any time of the year!
Whether you use produce from your garden or the grocery store, you’ll certainly be thankful you took the time to learn how to freeze vegetables and fruits while they were in season.
If you’re looking for more in-depth guidance on food preservation methods, check out my Food Preservation Basics for Beginners course. We’ll dive even deeper into freezing fresh vegetables and fruit. Plus, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about canning, fermenting, and dehydrating produce, too.
My goal is to help you gain knowledge and confidence to reach your food preservation and self-sufficiency goals!
What fruit or vegetables do you plan to freeze this growing season?