There are some things that are simply worth the cost. Healthy produce is one of them, even though fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive.
Summer is a time of abundance--fruits and vegetables are cheaper and more luscious when they’re in season, but sadly, seasons end. (Find out how to tell what’s in season here.)
That said, there’s no reason you should miss out on blackberries or sweet corn in the fall and winter … and there’s also no reason you should pay a high premium to import them from other parts of the world. Save your money, lower your carbon footprint and savor the sweet taste of summer by freezing your bounty.
How to Freeze Time
We spoke with Daniel Gasteiger, author of Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too, who recommends freezing fruits and vegetables so that you can enjoy them later. Foods stored constantly at 0˚ F are always safe to eat, according to Foodsafety.gov, but for the sake of quality, taste and appearance, plan to use your foods within a year.
Mix fruit with ascorbic acid to prevent ripening, discoloring or browning.
3 Ways to Freeze
Wash, peel, seed, pit and prepare your fruit in whatever shape you’ll want it later. For apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines, mix ½ tsp ascorbic acid (which is vitamin C, found at grocery stores) with 3 Tbsp water for every quart of prepared fruit, then toss the fruit with the mixture. This keeps your fruit from ripening, discoloring or browning.
Then, just lay the fruit flat on a cookie sheet and let it freeze overnight. The next morning, pack it in freezer bags or containers. Make sure there is as little air as possible in those containers.
Wash and de-stem. Gasteiger’s trick is to quickly put the herbs in a blender with a bit of water to achieve a thin paste, then place the mixture in a clean, empty ice cube tray. He lets it freeze overnight, then pops out the cubes and places them in bags for later use.
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Wash, pare and cut the vegetables. Then, blanche them—boil the food very briefly, until it’s tender but barely cooked, and then immediately plunge into ice water. Blanching vegetables prevents discoloration and toughening in the freezer. Refer to this list for how long to blanche popular summer vegetables.
Should You Freeze?
Obviously, frozen varieties won’t reclaim the exact consistency as the originals. For example, thawed frozen fruit will have a mushier consistency. If you’re not sure whether you’d enjoy the softer fruit, toss a little peach, melon or berry in the freezer overnight and see what you think of it the next day. Our expert recommends eating fruit while it’s still at least partially frozen, unless you plan to cook with it. Try snacking on frozen fruit while it thaws or using it in smoothies.
Note that you don’t have to thaw vegetables before use. Just throw the frozen veggies straight into whatever you’re cooking.
What to Freeze
Here’s our handy guide to what does (and doesn’t) freeze well:
|Food||Freeze||Don’t Freeze||Maybe Freeze||Notes|
|Apricots||X||Good taste, slight change in texture|
|Cantaloupe||X||Making melon balls can be work intensive|
|Honeydew||X||Making melon balls can be work intensive|
|Mangoes||X||Cube to use in smoothies; otherwise try using in salsa or preserving by drying|
|Peaches||X||Good taste, slight change in texture|
|Plums||X||Good taste, slight change in texture|
|Rhubarb||X||Plan to cook with it (like in pie)|
|Sour Cherries||X||Plan to cook with them (like in pie)|
|Oranges||X||Mushy, and citrus lasts long anyway|
|Grapefruit||X||Mushy, and citrus lasts long anyway|
|Lemons||X||Mushy, and citrus lasts long anyway|
|Limes||X||Mushy, and citrus lasts long anyway|
|Tomatoes||X||Hold off unless part of sauce or dish|
|Herbs||X||Try freezing into ice cubes!|
|Sugar Snap Peas||X|
|Asparagus||X||A bit soggy, but will taste good in soup|
|Broccoli||X||Good, but similar to store-bought|
|Cauliflower||X||Good, but similar to store-bought|
|Green Beans||X||Good, but similar to store-bought|
|Spinach||X||Good, but similar to store-bought|
|Beets||X||Not great for freezing; last long anyway|
|Cabbage||X||Soggy and useless; don’t bother|
|Carrots||X||Not great for freezing; last long anyway|
|Celery||X||Gets limp and gross; don’t bother|
|Cucumbers||X||Too weird and mushy; don’t bother|
|Eggplant||X||Cook into a dish and then freeze|
|Onions||X||Last long anyway, not worth it|
|Lettuce||X||Meant to be eaten fresh; don’t bother|
|Potatoes||X||Not great for freezing; last long anyway|
|Radishes||X||Not great for freezing; last long anyway|
|Summer Squash||X||Cook into a dish and then freeze|
|Zucchini||X||Cook into a dish and then freeze|
For ideas about how to incorporate your produce into healthy and easy one-pot meals, read here.