Freezing fruits is one of the easiest, fastest ways to preserve these juicy, sun-kissed morsels. You can choose from many different ways to freeze fruits. Some you can toss whole into freezer bags and call it done. Others need to be packed in a sweetened syrup to help fruit maintain its flavor and color.
Deciding what fruits to freeze depends on your family's personal tastes. For pie eaters, you might want to tackle freezing pear or apple slices; smoothie lovers might opt for a stash of frozen lemon or avocado. Dieters everywhere revel in frozen grapes or watermelon as a low-calorie snack.
Your mind might be filled with dozens of questions about freezing: Can you freeze fresh pineapple? Can you freeze lemon wedges? Can you freeze cantaloupe? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Each fruit requires specific freezing methods, and which method you use often depends on how you'll use the final product.
Adapt the various methods of freezing fruit based on your plans for the frozen item. For instance, if you enjoy fresh, nutritious smoothies, consider freezing items like avocado or watermelon as puree frozen in ice cube trays. Store frozen cubes in zipper-style freezer bags, and you can grab as many cubes as you need for each smoothie.
Fresh pineapple freezes well without any special pre-treatment, but apples, avocados, and pears need to be treated to prevent browning. Always read freezing recipes thoroughly before starting to be sure you understand the necessary steps—and to be certain you have all the ingredients on hand.
You can individually quick freeze many fruits on a parchment-lined tray. Some candidates for this treatment include cantaloupe balls, grapes, lemon wedges or slices, pear slices, or avocado chunks. Once items freeze fully, seal them in zipper-style freezer bags. To prevent possible freezer burn, remove as much air as possible before sealing.
If you have a vacuum sealer, it's a cinch to create airtight pouches of frozen fruit. You can also remove air from bags using a straw to suck out air as you seal the bag. Or submerge filled, open bags in water to force air out of the bag. Keep the bag opening above the water surface, and seal it while it is submerged.
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.
Fruits packed in syrup freeze better in containers. Always remember to leave some head space in containers to allow room for expansion as materials freeze. Some fruits, like apples and pears, need to stay submerged in syrup as they freeze to avoid having the fruits turn brown. To keep fruit submerged, fill the headspace with crumpled parchment or wax paper.
Above all, remember that freezing doesn't improve fruit quality, so you always want to start with the freshest blemish-free fruit you can find. How long do frozen fruits last? A good rule of thumb is to use most fruits within nine to fourteen months, although the ideal window does vary depending on the fruit and freezing method used. You'll usually find specific recommendations in recipes.