Can You Freeze Watermelon?
Leftover watermelon doesn't have to spoil. Preserve the excess in the freezer for a summery treat this winter. We'll show you how.
Nothing evokes summer like fresh watermelon juice running down your chin. Capture the feeling of long summer days by tucking some watermelon into your freezer. If you're thinking, "Are you sure—can you freeze watermelon?" The answer is a resounding yes. Learn the ins and outs of freezing this juicy fruit, including tips on how to use the frozen goodness.
Watermelons are 92 percent water, so there's no doubt they'll freeze. The question is what kind of product you'll have after they thaw. The texture does change: The flesh won't have the same toothsome bite it offers prior to freezing. The sweetness drops just a little. Unless you seriously crave the sugary sweetness watermelon brings to a picnic, you should find the frozen version tasty.
You'll get the best results by starting with the freshest, ripest watermelons you can find. Good candidates for freezing should have solid rinds and a nice, hollow-sounding center when you knock gently on them. Avoid any melons with decaying or dark spots. The flesh should be firm, fully colored, and juicy.
You'll need to remove seeds before freezing, so if you're short on time, get a seedless watermelon. Look for locally grown watermelons at nearby farmers' markets. You can also grow you own. Just be sure you have enough room for vines to ramble.
To freeze watermelons, cut the fruit open. You can cube the melon, freeze it in big chunks, or use a melon baller or spoon to create small balls. Remove seeds as you cut the melon. Place the melon pieces on a baking tray. Lining the tray with parchment or wax paper first makes removing the frozen pieces easier. This is especially important if you slice the watermelon into thinner pieces.
Place the tray into the freezer to quick freeze the melon. After the watermelon is frozen solid, pack the pieces into freezer bags or containers. Remove the air from bags using a straw or vacuum sealer. Think ahead to how you'll use the frozen watermelon. If you want to add it to lunch boxes for a noon-time treat, consider freezing pieces in smaller zipper bags that can be sealed in larger freezer bags.
Some people prefer to puree the melon with a little sugar before freezing, because the freezing process slightly alters the sweetness. Freeze melon puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pack in freezer bags. Use the cubes to chill fruit teas or wine spritzers.
Plums are a natural for home gardens with their compact size and easy-growing nature. These trees tend to be beautiful specimens and bear heavy loads of fruit—not enough to overwhelm, but more than enough to balance fresh eating with sharing and putting by. ‘Opal’ plum trees are self-fertile. Fruit ripens early in the season, ripening over a two-week window, so you’re not overwhelmed with produce.
Give yourself a treat by planting a cherry tree. These trees add beauty with their spring blooms, and it’s tough to beat the tasty fruit. Just make sure you protect your crop from hungry birds with a little scare tape or netting. For small yards, look for Compact Stella, a self-fertile cherry that grows 10 to 12 feet tall and starts bearing within two years. If you’re into pie baking, plant sour cherries, which are self-fertile. Other cherries need a pollinating partner.
In warm regions (Zones 8-10), kumquats make an excellent addition to the family yard. Trees have a natural compact size and classic deep green citrus-type leaves. Fruits are small and egg shaped and decorate trees from late fall to early spring. Kumquats are fully edible—skins and flesh. Skins are sweet, while flesh is tart, making for an unusual flavor combination. It’s the ideal choice for marmalade. Trees adapt well to containers in areas with colder winters.
Grafted Trees with Multiple Cultivars
Plant everyone’s favorite apple by growing a tree with several cultivars grafted onto the trunk. You can find multi-graft trees for apples (shown), citrus, peaches, cherries and pears. With these trees, you can savor a variety of fruits in a smaller space. Multi-graft trees also extend the harvest window and provide cross-pollination partners. It’s the ideal answer for home fruit production. Follow pruning instructions carefully as different varieties may grow at different rates.
Few fruits compete with the sensory delight peaches offer, from fuzzy skin to juice-dribbling flesh. Peach trees are lovely in flower and add good color to landscapes. Most peach trees are self-fertile, so you can get away with planting just one tree. The most critical aspect of choosing a tree is cold hardiness—make sure you’re getting a tree that will survive your winters. In colder zones, avoid planting peach trees on southern exposures, or you risk early blooms that a late frost might zap. Check out columnar peaches, which take up little space and adapt to containers.
For gardeners in Zones 9 to 10, mandarin oranges can serve as a stunning landscape plant with their deep green leaves, fragrant blooms and bright orange fruit. In colder zones, choose dwarf mandarin trees for container culture. Mandarins are actually hardier than standard oranges and feature that easy-peeling fruit perfect for tossing into salads. Semi-dwarf trees usually withstand pruning to a certain size. ‘Satsumi’ is the most cold hardy variety. Other good choices are ‘Honey’ and ‘Encore.’ ‘Pixie’ is more of a shrub.
Pears combine beauty with delicious fruit that’s a gift to any size yard. Look for dwarf pears sold on rootstock Pyrodwarf, which produces trees 6 to 8 feet tall. ‘Beurre Bosc Dwarf’ is a genetic dwarf pear that grows 8 to 10 feet high. This photos shows cordon pears. Cordon refers to a type of stem training and pruning that results in a tightly upright growth form. The method works on pear or apple trees that produce fruit on spur-bearing shoots, which are short side shoots along stems. You’ll get the best harvest by planting more than one pear tree for cross pollination.
Fresh ripe apricots are nothing like their hard, store-bought cousins. A ripe apricot is actually too soft to ship, so the only way to enjoy that taste treat is to pick it fresh from the tree. Apricot trees are medium size, but you can find dwarf varieties. This fruit tree easily hold its own as an ornamental in the landscape. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but most need a partner nearby. In colder zones, look for varieties that flower later to avoid losing blossoms to late spring frosts.
Fragrant leaves, flowers and fruits make Kaffir lime a delight to grow, whether in the landscape or in a pot. Dwarf Kaffir Lime tops out at 6 to 10 feet and is versatile in the kitchen, prized for its leaves, fruit zest and juice. This is the must-have lime for preparing Thai, Lao and Cambodian cuisine. Mexican or key lime is another good choice for home gardens. Lime trees are very cold sensitive and must be protected from frost. Most limes are self-pollinating, although the flowers easily beckon bees with their sweet fragrance.
Whether you grow them in a pot or small backyard orchard, apples bring a familiar, cherished fruit to the landscape. Spring flowers transform trees into works of art. Choose dwarf or cordon-type (columnar) trees for landscapes and containers. Apple blssoms need to be cross-pollinated. Ask where you purchase your trees which varieties are compatible with yours.
Small, 1-inch fruits resemble tangerines and offer an unusual taste treat. The peels on calamondin are sweet, while the flesh has more of a tart zing. This is a citrus tree that’s commonly grown in containers. It’s one of the more cold-hardy citrus trees, tolerating temperatures to 20°F. The trees are highly ornamental with deep green leaves punctuated by white flowers or orange fruit.
When it comes to easy, figs are near the top of the list. Plants grow with few demands. Pruning may be top of the list, although if you grow naturally short types, like ‘Black Jack’ or ‘Improved Brown Turkey,’ pruning to control height isn’t needed. Some varieties send up suckers to form fig colonies that resemble an oversize shrub. You can also raise a fig tree in a container, which is one way to grow this tasty dessert fruit in colder zones. Figs are self-pollinating.
Don’t overlook lemons when planning an edible home landscape. Fresh lemons bring sparkle and color to the dinner table and play a key role in many dishes, including fish, vegetables, desserts and cocktails. Ripe ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon fruit lasts eight months or more on the tree. In colder zones, grow lemons in pots that you can haul outside for summer and place in a protected location come winter.
For a stunning fall display, you won’t go wrong adding persimmons to your landscape. Fall leaves offer a host of fiery hues, and fruits turn deep orange when ripe. Most unripe persimmons are astringent, but ripened fruits are referred to as “food of the gods.” Asian varieties tend to be shorter, while native American types are full-on trees. Look for dwarf varieties for smaller spaces. Persimmons aren’t self-fertile; you’ll need two trees for fruit production.
Botanically speaking, tangerines and mandarin oranges have the same Latin name. In California, ‘Dancy’ is a long-favorite variety, with loose skin and late-season ripening. For many orchard owners, ‘Dancy’ sets the standard for tangerine flavor. In the home garden, consider ‘Fremont’ tangerine, with fruit that’s wonderful fresh or juiced. Ripe fruit lasts up to 8 months on the tree. Another long-time California favorite is Ojai Pixie, which is usually sold as ‘Pixie’ mandarin.
Frozen watermelon is best eaten only slightly thawed, so it has a firmer texture. Eat it as a low-calorie snack or dessert. Or use the frozen watermelon to make smoothies or sorbet. An easy sorbet recipe is to pulse frozen melon in a food processor with a little lemon juice. Add a tiny bit of sugar if needed. Frozen watermelon is a natural companion in beverages. Use it to create a traditional or virgin daiquiri or margarita.
Fully thawed, frozen watermelon is closer to puree in texture. This watermelon combines wonderfully with lemon or lime flavors. Blend the melon puree with lemons for tasty lemonade. Or replace the water in lime jello with melon puree for a terrific flavor and velvety-smooth texture. Watermelon puree also works well in a traditional or virgin bloody mary or mojito.
Frozen watermelon chunks—packed with Vitamin C—make a great treat for folks fighting sore throats or colds. You can also freeze cubed watermelon with other fruits, such as kiwi or strawberry, in a little orange or pineapple juice to make yummy popsicles kids will love. Frozen watermelon puree makes a great tasting popsicle, too. For best quality, eat frozen watermelon—chunks or puree—within nine to 12 months.