Today’s guest post comes from Rachel Thomas, an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. Today she’s sharing information with us about preserving what we grow. Take it away Rachel…
With plenty of gardening comes plenty of produce, but what can you do with all of it? You certainly can’t eat it all at once, and canning everything is a pain in the neck. However your freezer might give you another option. Saving produce by freezing it is often very efficient, fast and easy to do. Most vegetables and fruits can be frozen without any loss of flavor. Plus by preparing it ahead of time you can make your meals faster and easier than ever. Here are some tips for freezing your produce:
Cut it Up – The first step to freezing your produce is preparation. You should cut the fruits and vegetables into the sizes you will use for meals. For example I peel and slice my peaches for use in pies and smoothies before I freeze them. I also shell my peas, dice my bell peppers, and shred my zucchini. By having the produce all ready to go it not only makes my meal preparation faster but makes it easier to freeze them. Keep in mind that some produce needs to be blanched before freezing to preserve the flavor and color. (Editor’s Note: You can find tips on what needs blanching in Gardening for Geeks)
Lay It Out – After the produce is prepared, it is time to freeze it. Although you can toss it all in a freezer bag and throw it in the freezer it is a lot harder to use it that way. It also takes up more room in your freezer. Instead, take a cue from the professionals and lay out your produce before freezing it. Get a large cookie sheet and line it. Then spread out the prepared produce in a single layer and freeze it. After it is frozen you can easily pour it into a container and it will be much easier to manipulate and defrost later. For liquids, like pureed produce and herbs, you have two options. You can pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze before putting the cubes in a bag. Or you can lay the bag on its side and freeze in a thin layer that is very easy to store.
Package It Well – Keep in mind that your produce will only stay fresh if you package it well. A regular sandwich bag will not do the trick. Instead make sure you use bags especially made for freezing or other methods that will keep your produce fresh. Vacuum sealing is a great way to keep produce fresh in the freezer for over a year!
Invest in a Good Freezer – Last but not least, you should invest in a good freezer to keep your produce lasting longer. The one that comes with your refrigerator is okay for short term storage, like a month or two, but for longer periods an independent freezer is much better at preserving foods. Just think about how much money you are saving on produce year round and it will make the investment of a freezer seem less overwhelming.
As you can see, freezing your produce is a great, easy way to make the most of your garden. Do not throw away rotten produce because you can’t eat it fast enough. Instead save it for up to a year or more in your freezer and have great fruits and vegetables any time of year that are tasty and homegrown.
Rachel welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.