As our days get a little longer and temperatures start to rise, home gardens are prospering. Once all of that produce is ready to be harvested, a decision has to be made as what to do with all of that food. A solution is freezing.
Freezing is one of the simplest and best ways to preserve vegetables. It is less time consuming than other methods and the color, flavor, texture and nutritive value are much like the fresh product.
Most vegetables freeze well. Those with high water content, which are normally eaten raw, loose their crispness and get limp and tough when frozen.
Here are a few reminders when freezing fresh produce:
•Freeze only high quality, fresh produce. Freezing will maintain quality, not improve it. Handle quickly, vegetables begin to deteriorate rapidly as soon as they are harvested. Handle in a sanitary manner. Freezing does not destroy spoilage microorganisms as canning does; it only stops or retards growth.
•Prepare properly. Blanching is the most important step. Blanching is the only part of preparation for the freezer that seems to be a problem for some people. Why do we blanch vegetables? Actually heating before freezing is the most important step in preparing vegetables for the freezer. All vegetables, except green peppers and onions or herbs for seasoning, must be heated. Heating destroys the natural enzymes found in vegetables. Enzymes are chemical substances that help vegetables grow and mature, but if their action isn’t stopped before freezing, they destroy the fresh flavor about a month into storage. Their activity in frozen storage causes vegetables to develop off-flavors, off-odors, to discolor or to toughen.
•Pack airtight in moisture-vapor-proof freezer bags or containers. Exposure to oxygen and loss of moisture cause undesirable changes in flavor and dried-out texture and appearance called freezer burn. Freeze quickly and store at 0° F. Slow freezing results in poor quality. Large ice crystals are formed, which may result in a mushy texture and increased loss of natural juices when thawed.
The LSU AgCenter bulletin, “Freezing Vegetables”, is filled with information to guide you in freezing your prized veggies. For a copy of the bulletin on freezing and other topics, contact the LSU AgCenter office at 337-332-2181, or log onto the website at www.lsuagcenter.com.