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.
Easy Freezer Vegetables
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 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.
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.
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.