Freezing Vegetables and Herbs: The Garden Foodie Version

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Snap beans ready for freezing

Let me state from the outset that I am a foodie, which Wiki defines as a person who "loves food for study, consumption, preparation, and news." I would further confess to being a garden foodie, which moves things to a whole new level. Unlike regular foodies, who are a distinct "hobbyist group," we garden foodies are truly obsessed with what we do. In summer, we have trouble not thinking about managing the miraculous flow of food from the garden to the kitchen, and beyond.

The purpose of this confession is to qualify me to render three useful freezing tips for vegetables and herbs from your garden. My guidelines are no substitute for learning the basics of freezing, for which you will need a good reference book such as Putting Food By. But for fellow garden foodies, these little refinements can help make your garden food as good as it can be, even if it comes from the freezer.

A steamer

1. Steam blanch to preserve flavour and quality

Blanching vegetables is preliminary to freezing them, and most reference books will give you the option of blanching peas, French beans, squash, and many other veggies in boiling water or steam. Steam is the best way to go. Steaming uses less energy than boiling because you heat much less water. The produce also keeps its shape and colour better because it does not swim in boiling water. I use a medium-size pot with an accompanying steaming basket and lid for blanching vegetables. Steaming times for vegetables vary from 3 minutes for delicate mangetout to 15 minutes for ears of corn, but the goal is always to barely cook them through. Once the steaming time is up, I dump the hot veggies onto a pan of ice to preserve their colour. Then they go straight into freezer bags, laid flat on cookie sheets in the freezer until frozen hard. Freezing tip 1.1: Burgundy French beans turn from purple to green when the perfect blanching time has elapsed, so I always grow a few to mix with other French beans in the steamer basket.

Freezing vegetables and herbs

2. Freeze vegetables and herbs in mixed batches

On many days, your excess produce will consist of a little of this and a little of that, which is great! Except as discussed below under stuffed vegetables, I rarely freeze a veggie all by itself. Instead, I might bag up blanched mélanges of whatever I have, including fresh herbs. Paying attention to flavour, texture and colour, I easily create beautiful frozen mixtures that need only a sauce and a topping to become dinner. Some examples:

  • Snap peas with scallions and kale
  • Mangetout with kohlrabi sticks, radishes and garlic chives
  • Golden beetroot with onions, celery and dill
  • Summer squash with chard and oregano
  • French beans with carrots and basil
  • Sweetcorn with peppers and coriander

When blanching vegetables together, the only trick here is to add the herbs during the last minute of steaming, so that they barely wilt. For colour accents, you can grate in a carrot, dice a golden beetroot, snip in a few nasturtium or calendula petals, or sprinkle in shreds of red lettuce or radicchio. When freezing vegetables this way, the only rule is to create mixtures that look and taste great.

Freezing blanched squash

3. Plan ahead for stuffed vegetables

You know those large outer leaves on a head of cabbage? You can take the most perfect ones, split the stems to get them to lie flat, and then steam blanch them for about 4 minutes (working with 2 leaves at a time). Freeze them flat, and use them to make stuffed cabbage rolls in winter. Look, and you may find stuffed vegetables you didn’t know you had. I hollow out patty pan (scallop) squash, blanch and freeze them, and use them to make stuffed squash. You can slit pablano peppers down the side to remove the seeds, then steam them whole for future use as chiles rellenos. Get the picture? From baby aubergine to courgette, you will have great garden foodie fun when you thaw the little frozen boats, wrapper leaves or pockets and fill them with grain, cheese or meat-based stuffings. If you’re a true garden foodie, eating stuffed vegetables you froze yourself will take you close to a peak experience.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Comments

 
"Great tips Barbara, I'd never thought of freezing food for stuffed vegetable dishes. What a good idea! Any tips on what to do with a large quantity of new potatoes? Could they be blanched or pre-cooked and frozen? "
Kimberley on Friday 24 June 2011
"I've prided myself on being a garden foodie for several years with my garden growing every year. The ways to preserve what comes from the garden also grows every year. With a large chest freezer dedicated to my garden I often am able to preserve enough veggies for my family of 7 for the entire winter. Freezing veggies and herbs together wasn't something I thought of, nor was vegetables for stuffing. Thanks Barb!"
Dawn on Friday 24 June 2011
"Kimberley, I think potatoes get too stiff when frozen, but I'm also a food snob! You can blanch and dry potatoes quite successfully, if you don't manage to eat up those new potatoes. All those potatoes-in-a-box convenience foods are dried (blanched) potato slices with seasoning packets."
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 24 June 2011
"Thanks for the great article! It is now saved away in gardening tab :) It gave me some great ideas for storing some of my veggies."
Shannon Marie on Monday 27 June 2011
"Mix purple beans with green ones ? Now that is a BRILLIANT idea ! Thanks very much Barbara...."
melboy on Tuesday 28 June 2011
"As a newbie I really appreciate this advice. What do you recommend for courgettes? I had only thought about ratatouille, but no tomatoes ready yet."
Lynne on Tuesday 28 June 2011
"@ Lynne...look out for a book called "What will I do with all those courgettes" by Elaine Borish...published by Fidelio Press...You'll be amazed at what you can do with them !!"
melboy on Wednesday 29 June 2011
"Brillian idea to package herbs in with the vegetables. I blend my lime basil with butter, flatten the zip lock down, and freeze. Easy and takes up very little space. Yummy on pasta throughout the winter!"
Wittie on Friday 1 July 2011
"Thanks for that melboy, I certainly will look for that book. "
Lynne on Friday 1 July 2011
"Courgette recipes Courgette and dill fritters with feta Courgette and coconut soup Courgette risotto Courgette provencale sauce for pasta Courgette and goats cheese lasagne Courgette with pesto and pine nuts with pasta Courgette breakfast muffins Most recipes courtesy of national daily newspaper's seasonal cooking pages!"
Carolyn on Saturday 2 July 2011
"I appreciate all the info for freezing...but has anyone tried the food-saver. This vacuums out all the air so the produce last a lot longer. You must flash freeze the produce first before packaging. It truly is wonderful."
Beverly Olson on Saturday 2 July 2011
"I agree on the food saver! I have been using it for years, The produce lasts much longer. Since I co-op on a large garden, and have my on home square foot garden We freeze and can plenty!"
Fran Marciano on Tuesday 5 July 2011
"Been using the food saver for years! It is wonderful for freezing vegetables! "
Dawn on Wednesday 6 July 2011
"Oh my gosh...this is so inspiring! Mixed veggies and herbs..how simple yet I never thought of it..just brilliant! A couple questions..what is courgettes? I've never heard of it. Second question, in our markets they now have frozen sweet potato or yam slices that you can throw in the oven and bake and they come out crispy sort of like bagged potato chips. I tried to do this with fresh slices and a little olive oil but they stayed soft. Is the freezing part of the secret to this? Third, why must everything be blanched or steamed first?"
Patrice on Sunday 29 January 2012
"Can I answer your questions backward? With few exception,s blanching or steaming stops enzyme activities that cause deterioration while preserving nutrients. Courgettes are summer squash, usually zucchini. On the sweet potato chips, I don't know how they process those slices, but I would be inclined to steam them until barely cooked, freeze on cookie sheets, transfer to bags, and eventually bake in a very hot oven. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 29 January 2012
"Hi Barbara, Thanks so much for the answers...very interesting about halting the enzyme processes. I will try that with the sweet potato slices to see if it works. Courgette is a much prettier name than zucchini! Reminds me of the time I visited Australia. I was the only American and we were sipping wine while meandering through a friend's garden when someone commented on how well the Capsaisan was doing. I discreetly peeked around looking for some oddity that was growing well but, to my dismay, only saw common vegetables I recognized. Finally, dying of curiosity, I asked what they were talking about only to discover, to my chagrin, it was the peppers...lol. "
Patrice on Monday 30 January 2012
"It would be good to have a blanching timing chart."
Paul on Monday 12 August 2013

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