RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If your garden looks anything like mine, you're pulling off the last of what this year's harvest has to offer. I don't know how to can them, and if I did I probably wouldn't have the time, but there is a way to enjoy them all winter by freezing them.
Most fruits and vegetables can be frozen, but you can't just cut them up and toss them in the freezer. You wash and trim them like you would if you were eating it fresh. Then you blanch them to slow the aging.
Blanching involves cooking your produce slightly in steam or boiling water.
"The enzymatic process is what causes changes in the flavor, color, texture and why a vegetable doesn't stay good forever," said Valerie Waters, Martin's Registered Dietician.
Then you cool the produce in an ice bath, drain it and dry it. We've all frozen strawberries only to have them turn to mush when defrosted. That's because fruit holds a lot of water. Water expands in the freezer, which bursts cell walls. A sugar solution or ascorbic acid will help keep the texture intact.
"With fruit it's a good idea to eat it when it's a little bit frozen so that's while it's ideal to make smoothies and those kinds of things with frozen fruit rather than defrosting it completely and expecting it to be the same quality as it was before you froze it," Waters said.
The same can happen to vegetables, but it won't be an issue if you use them while cooking.
Not everything can be frozen. Avoid citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes. Maintaining a constant temperature is key. And make sure you store them in a moisture-resistant container.
You can freeze them as a bunch or if you know you'll only need a few at a time, lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually. It'll be easier to grab that handful when you go to cook them.
Frozen fruits and vegetables usually last about six months and cook in half the time compared to fresh produce. You can find a full list of what can be frozen and how to do it by clicking here.