From the employee-owners of Gardener's Supply

Jennifer’s Journal: Too Much Produce? Freeze!

Midsummer harvest

A midsummer harvest from my garden

At this time of year, I am swimming in produce! A lot of my usual garden chores have taken a backseat to preserving the many vegetables I’m harvesting here at Gardeners’ Supply and in my home garden. I’m trying to stay aware of which beds should be marked for cover cropping and which should be planted with the fall and winter greens that I’ve started in plug trays as I harvest. Otherwise, it’s all about canning, freezing and dehydrating.

August 28

Easy Freezer Vegetables

Organizing the freezer

Chest freezers can be messy. Milk crates and boxes can help keep you organized.

If your gardening season is on the shorter side, you’re sure to experience that moment when  everything seems to be ready at once. You have my complete sympathy! I’ll share my go-to list of quick freezer techniques for abundant produce. To me, freezing is tops because it’s fast, convenient, and a known method for keeping nutrients in place.

Luckily, chest freezers are affordable and most are energy efficient. As a guide, look for the Energy Star ratings on new models. That being said, chest freezers are not designed for easy access and organization. The downside of freezing is that you’re likely to forget what’s buried deep at the bottom, which means that you paid the electric department to store a vegetable that you never used and then you paid the grocer for a meal to replace the homegrown meal you lost track of! To prevent problems, I create a spreadsheet for my freezer and pair it with a map.

Here are some quick freezer techniques that are especially useful when the garden is abundant:

Frozen whole tomato

Thawing the skin off of a frozen tomato

Frozen Whole Tomatoes
Place whole tomatoes in a plastic freezer bag with the date and throw them in the freezer. That’s it. For a few years, I used to cut an X into one end of each tomato — to make for easy peeling — but it proved unnecessary. When you’re ready to use the tomatoes, running them under the faucet will encourage the skin to slip off with ease. Keep in mind that these tomatoes don’t compare to just-picked fruit. They’re not suited for fresh eating or making BLTs, but they are perfect for soups, stews, and casseroles.

Preparing peppers for freezing

Pack peppers in the quantities you are most likely to use. This way, it doesn’t matter if they stick together when freezing.

Frozen Sliced Peppers
Seed the peppers and slice or cut into chunks before packing into freezer bags. I use these for flatbread pizzas during the winter. Also good for starting soups and stews. Variation: Saute the peppers with onions before freezing — perfect for a quick homemade pizza, frittatas, omelets and quiches.

Pattypan squash

Zucchini aren’t the only summer squash that can be shredded and frozen. These Pattypans make all of the same great recipes and add a sunny burst of color.

Frozen Shredded Zucchini
Run any type of summer squash through your food processor with the grating disc in place and freeze the shreds in plastic bags. You can expect excess water when you thaw the shredded squash, but squeezing it in a dish towel seems to help. This squash is great for baking (breads, muffins, cakes) or for making vegetable pies, veggie lasagna and crisp zucchini pancakes.

I would love to hear your fast freezer tips for preserving the harvest. If you have a trick to share, please leave a comment below.


  1. September 15, 2013    

    Freezing sliced bell peppers is so easy and convenient. They’re also great for scrambling with eggs. I just take a handful of them (frozen) out of the ziplock bag and put them in the pan just before adding the eggs. They thaw very quickly that way and are great.

    • Jennifer Prince
      September 16, 2013    

      Bill – yes, they freeze so well it make sense to grow extra! I also find that hot peppers, especially the small ones, freeze perfectly as whole peppers. I always freeze a bunch of habaneros to make a batch of hot sauce in the winter.

    • Pamela O'Hearn
      October 1, 2013    

      I lay all of mine out on cookie sheets to freeze, and then bag, so they don’t stick together. Hot peppers are whole, bell peppers sliced. Works great, and that way I can take out just as much as I need, but load up fewer, bigger containers.

  2. Anita
    September 30, 2013    

    I freeze cut veggies in a single layer on a cookie sheet before putting them in plastic bags. This way they do not freeze in a block and you can pull/shake out as much as needed.

  3. Emily C
    September 30, 2013    

    I had a large garden and a chest freezer when we lived in New Hampshire. In the winter I would freeze milk cartons of water, leaving them on the porch until almost frozen before putting them in the freezer. Then in the summer I would use that ice to cool my blanched produce before freezing. The produce bags would be put in the freezer and then at the end of the freezing season, I would take all the bags out, inventory them, and pack them in four boxes or paper grocery bags, one fourth of the produce per box. That way I would have checked all the contents of the freezer in an hour or less. Then I would use the contents of one box before starting on the next. I waited until spring to defrost the freezer when the contents were much lower.

  4. Sonda
    September 30, 2013    

    I freeze extra spinach if I can’t eat it all fresh. I use it in my smoothies every morning and you can’t tell the difference between fresh and frozen in a smoothie. I also freeze any extra fruit for my smoothies: pineapple, bananas, cantaloupe and mango all work great.

  5. September 30, 2013    

    This was a bumper year for my apple & peach trees. After giving away all I could I dehydrated a bushel and froze peach and apple pies for winter when a fresh pie tastes so good. I just lines my pie plates with foil and piled the fruit high, covered and freeze. Once frozen i paced them in freezer bags. Come pie time, I just lay in the crust , slip in the fruit, cover and bake. Nothing taste better!

  6. Pamela Rose
    September 30, 2013    

    I flash freeze (rinse, spin dry, lay on a cookie sheet) in my chest freezer for my winter smoothies. Kale, chard, beets and beet tops, spinach, carrot tops, radish tops, spearmint leaves, and orach. I do this all throughout the short growing season we have and come winter use them in my green smoothies. Just like Sonda I also do that with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apricots, raspberries, as well the fruit she mentioned.

  7. Barbara Manard
    October 1, 2013    

    I split and seed jalapenos and all colors of bell peppers and onions then I spread on a cookie sheet to freeze. When frozen, I scrape them up, break up any clumps and put in 2-gallon Ziploc bags to store. These can be laid flat in the freezer. I try to sort by type of item and have a small chest freezer just for veggies. I usually peel my tomatoes before freezing and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze. I do this for fresh fruit also.

  8. Brie Gyncild
    October 1, 2013    

    I grow Walla Walla sweet onions, which don’t store well. So when the onion harvest is in and the tomatoes are producing exuberantly, I simmer sweet onions and tomatoes in olive oil until the moisture content is reduced a bit, and then freeze that concoction in one-serving containers. Such a treat to pull it out to eat in January.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Garden-tested tools, innovations and know-how for every gardener