Freezing Produce 101: How to Preserve Your Summer Bounty

Don't let your garden harvest go to waste; learn how to prevent spoilage and maintain freshness by freezing your fruits and veggies.

Savor summer's many flavors in the fall and winter by freezing freshly picked produce at its prime. Here's how to freeze this season's fruits and veggies for year-round enjoyment.

Green Beans

Freezing Green Beans

Freezing Green Beans

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Is there anything more evocative of summer in the South than snapping fresh green beans on a front porch, sweet tea on hand? Preserve that memory (and the beans) for a frigid winter night when July seems years away.

Zucchini

Zucchini

Zucchini

Zucchini

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

This versatile summer squash can be used in place of noodles, as a base for low-carb pizza or to enhance hearty vegetable soups.

Avocados

Millennials can enjoy their favorite fruit year-round. Although, it's best to use frozen avocados for guacamole instead of toast.

Strawberries

Fresh-picked Strawberries

Fresh-picked Strawberries

John Washington, co-owner of Washington Farms, picks berries in his in Watkinsville, Ga., strawberry field.

Photo by: Shannon Dominy

Shannon Dominy

Sure, frozen strawberries are easy enough to find in the store, but if you need to use up a fresh carton from the farmer's market, why not DIY? Add a bit of sugar so that the berries retain their color and flavor longer.

Peaches

Avalon Pride Peach

Avalon Pride Peach

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Fruits and Vegetables in Pots © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Fruits and Vegetables in Pots , 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Relive a hot, Southern summer day in the dead of winter with a sweet, lucious peach. Use them when you get a craving for comforting peach pie or cobbler.

Watermelon

Halved Watermelon

Halved Watermelon

Halved Watermelon

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Yep, you can freeze watermelon. This seasonal favorite makes an excellent daquiri or sorbet once frozen. It also works well as a fruity ice cube to enhance water.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes: Frozen

Tomatoes: Frozen

Yes, you can freeze tomatoes. They will not be suitable for salads once defrosted, but they will be good for soups and sauces. There's no need to peel the tomatoes first. Just slice into chunks and lay on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once frozen, place into a plastic zip bag or container to store in the freezer.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

With a freezer stocked full of tomatoes, you won't need to buy the canned variety anymore. Frozen 'maters shouldn't be used as burger topings, though. Stick to sauces and salsas, instead.

Okra

Organic grower "Farmer D" Daron Joffe holds organic okra. Okra is susceptible to damage from nematodes, so it should follow a crop rotation using corn or grass crops. Okra should not follow other crops that are highly susceptible to nematodes such as squash and sweet potatoes.

Gumbo, anyone? This veggie is a standby in Southern kitchens, for good reason. Whether breaded and fried or simmered in soup, frozen okra can be enjoyed long after summer ends.

Onions

Spring Onions in a basket at Blackberry Farm

Spring Onions in a basket at Blackberry Farm

Fresh spring onions, picked straight from the garden, add color and flavor to any recipe.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Blackberry Farm ©2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of Blackberry Farm, 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Bet you never thought of this one. Onions are a staple ingredient for any chef and any cuisine. While a frozen onion won't snap and crunch like a fresh one, it will impart tons of flavor.

Eggplant

Harvest Eggplant Early

Harvest Eggplant Early

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Depending on desired use, eggplants can be blanched or breaded before freezing. You can even cook eggplant before freezing it to use later in soups or casseroles.

Cucumbers

Pickling Cucumber

Pickling Cucumber

Pickling Cucumber

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Skip blanching for a brine when freezing cucumbers. They'll still have a crisp snap and flavor like pickles that you can use in relishes, dips or on sandwiches.

Corn

No need to de-kernel a corn before freezing. Simply blanch the entire corn cob and seal in an airtight bag.

Blueberries

Berries: Frozen

Berries: Frozen

Any type of berry takes well to freezing. Berries are picked at peak ripeness, and do not last long in the refrigerator. Give them a good rinse then thoroughly dry before you lay them on a cookie sheet. Pop them in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid. Store frozen berries in a plastic zip bag.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Blueberries freeze extremely well, retaining their texture and flavor for up to a year. Add them to yogurt, salads and smoothies.

Cantaloupe

'Ambrosia' Cantaloupe Melon

'Ambrosia' Cantaloupe Melon

With cantaloupes, the issues echo those with celery: timing and water. Melons need warm soil and air to thrive. Many northern gardeners rely on black plastic to warm soil in early spring. Consistent water is the secret to sweet cantaloupes. Soil needs to have plenty of organic matter to help retain moisture, and you need to water regularly. It’s best to water the root zone directly using drip irrigation. Overhead watering can help leaf diseases take hold.

Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company

Ball Horticultural Company

Preserve the vibrant, juicy character of this summer melon by freezing it in chunks, slices or balls. Then, eat it as an afternoon snack once thawed or puree to use as sorbet.

Garlic

Garlic Cloves

Garlic Cloves

Garlic Cloves

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Extend the life of a garlic bulb by freezing its cloves. Either puree them and freeze in oil or just freeze whole, individual cloves.

Spinach

Salad Garden Ideas

Salad Garden Ideas

Grow your own "salad bar" by planting spinach and other leafy greens in the garden or large containers. Try lots of other vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals, too, like broccoli and kale.

Photo by: Photo by Lynn Coulter

Photo by Lynn Coulter

Too many greens in the CSA box this month? Don't let them wilt! Blanch fresh spinach in a steamer basket, then place dry spinach in a bag to freeze. Use it in stir fries, quiches and pasta dishes.

Raspberries

Ripeness

Ripeness

In some cases, for instance tomatoes, the fruit may develop a bit of ripeness after harvest. This is not the case with berries. Once picked, no more sugar development occurs. Again, it is very important to harvest at peak ripeness.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

These beauties freeze extremely well, staying fresh for up to a year. Add them to yogurt and smoothes, or just eat them plain!

Lemons

Refinished Wood Bowl With Fruit

Refinished Wood Bowl With Fruit

Photo by: H. Camille Smith

H. Camille Smith

This citrus fruit can be frozen in a variety of ways, depending on how you'll use it. Juice it completely and freeze as lemon ice cubes. Or, freeze whole lemons to use for zesting.

Herbs

BP_HFXUP103H_70s-Redress_atrium-herb-garden-detail-113143-278678_h

BP_HFXUP103H_70s-Redress_atrium-herb-garden-detail-113143-278678_h

and Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper

Don't let that bountiful herb garden go to waste! Instead of drying them, freeze herbs, which better preserves their flavor.

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