Freezing Spring Produce

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Are you having trouble keeping up with all of the wonderful spring produce that is available right now? You may have a garden that is overflowing or a really great neighbor who loves to share. Maybe you are seeing some really great deals at a farmers market or supermarket, and you would like to take advantage of the deals but wonder what you would do with all of the food. How about freezing it?

When choosing freezing as a food preservation method for produce, you need 4 things:

Food — While there is some produce that does not lend itself to freezing (like lettuce), there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that do. Keep in mind that the food may require some preparation, such as washing, trimming, and/or blanching. Follow the specific preparation steps for the produce item chosen to help ensure a high-quality turnout.

Packaging — You can use freezer storage bags, rigid plastic freezer containers, or glass containers designed for freezing. You want to use packaging that is going to seal moisture in, so the food does not suffer from freezer burn.

Freezer Space — Freezing takes space. Freezers, unlike refrigerators, work best when packed full; this is a good thing. Make sure your freezer is operating at 0ºF by checking with a thermometer.

Reliable Power –– Reliable power can be a drawback; bad weather, among other things, can cause the power to go out. Make sure you keep up with the operation of your freezer, especially if it is not readily accessible. You would hate to go out to the freezer and find that the power went out, and you lost all of the food in it. Worse would be going out to frozen food that has been refrozen due to a power outage, and you do not know how long the power had been out and whether or not the food is safe to eat.

You can find information about what to do with your refrigerated and frozen food if the power goes out here:

Recovering from a Hurricane: Frozen and Refrigerated Food

You may have the following foods in abundance; here is how to freeze them:

Asparagus – Young, tender spears freeze the best. Wash them thoroughly and trim the stalks. Blanch small spears for 2 minutes, medium ones for 3 minutes, and large ones for 4 minutes. (Blanching inactivates enzymes that are only slowed down, but not stopped, by freezing.)  Cool immediately in ice water for the same amount of time you blanched, drain, and package, removing as much air as you can. Freeze.

Blueberries – Ripe berries freeze the best; choose berries in good condition without blemishes or bruising. Do not wash! Freeze in a single layer and then repack in freezer bags or containers. Wash before using.

Strawberries – Choose fully ripe berries in good condition. Wash berries before you remove the caps. Freeze in a single layer and then repack in freezer bags or containers.

New Potatoes – Choose smooth potatoes – peel or scrape and wash. Blanch for 3 minutes for small, 4 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for large. Cool immediately in ice water for the same amount of time you blanched, drain, and package, removing as much air as you can. Freeze.

You can find more information about blanching here:

National Center for Home Food Preservation – Blanching

#safeplates, #foodsafety, #eatortoss

Source: Debbie Stroud, Extension Area Specialized Agent, Consumer and Retail Food Safety, North Carolina State University