We joined a CSA this year for the first time. When we learned that our share was not quite enough for our family of five, we decided to get another small share of a different CSA. Little did we realize that now we had almost too much produce! The dance to use up our produce before it went bad began. Now, at the end of summer, both CSAs are abundant!
While I have learned new ways to use vegetables, including many I have never seen before such as ramps, I have also learned how to properly freeze many of these veggies. Now, our deep freezer is full of local, organic produce that we can use throughout the winter.
If you subscribe to a CSA or want to take advantage of the low produce prices at the farmer’s market, here are some strategies to preserve them in the freezer:
Freeze without Blanching
We love red peppers, but they are astronomically priced in the winter (off-season), so we generally avoid them. However, they are packed with more vitamin C than an orange, so they are a nutritional powerhouse and should be consumed. Luckily, you can simply dice them and freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then, when they are frozen, put in a heavy duty freezer bag.
Other fruits and veggies that you can preserve the same way as red peppers include:
- Grapes (these are best eaten still slightly frozen)
- Bananas (either whole in the skin or sliced)
- Green peppers
- Green onions
- Zucchini (I shred before freezing. Some recommend blanching, but I have not had a problem even though I don’t blanch it)
Freeze after Blanching
Blanching simply means to briefly submerge the vegetable in boiling water for as little as 2 minutes and then to drain them and submerge them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. This process stops the natural enzymes and optimizes the vegetables’ freezer preservation. If you don’t blanch these vegetables, they become tough or discolored in the freezer and their flavor is affected.
These vegetables freeze nicely after blanching:
- Green beans
- Brussel sprouts
(A good source to use to find how long to blanch each vegetable is Missouri Families Food Safety  page.)
Vegetables that Do Not Freeze Well
Sadly, not all vegetables can make a trip through the freezer and still come out edible. Here are some vegetables in our CSA basket that you must eat when fresh:
- Potatoes (one exception to this is homemade French fries; I cut them in strips, sprinkle with oil and herbs such as Italian seasoning or garlic salt) and cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes until almost cooked through, and then freeze. Simply reheat in the oven when ready to eat.)
Freeze as Frozen Meals
Finally, not all of your excess produce has to be frozen separately to use in the winter. This summer, I made freezer meals with much our excess produce. In fact, we had so many extra veggies that I already have enough freezer meals to feed our family dinner almost every night for 2 months, and we still have 8 weeks left of CSA deliveries!
Here are some of our favorite ways to freeze produce in meals:
- Cabbage—Cabbage and Beef Soup 
- Pesto—We make a simple recipe. Just put one bunch of basil in the food processor with ¼ cup oil and chop. Store in ice cube trays. For our family of 5, 4 ice cube blocks of pesto feed us when mixed with cooked pasta and some fresh tomatoes.
- Spinach or Swiss Chard—Italian Wedding Soup  (add the pasta when you are reheating, not when you first make it or it will become mushy in the freezer)
- Kale—Chicken Apple Sausage, Kale and Rice Soup 
- Beets—Harvard Beets  or Beet Pancakes  (sounds gross, but they are very tasty with a bit of maple syrup on top)
If you have too much produce, there is no reason to let veggies go bad. Simply freeze them properly or use them in freezer meals and you will be able to eat local produce all year long.
(Photo: andrewmorrell )