For optimal enjoyment of this article, I strongly suggest putting on your headphones and letting this song play in the background while you read along. Because when you have a piece of fresh produce in your hand, and you ask yourself, “Can I Freeze It?” more often than not (just like Q-Tip says), YES YOU CAN!
For a long time, the general consensus about frozen food has been that it’s not as good for you as fresh. However, an increasing amount of scientific studies are being published that prove the opposite is true. In some cases, frozen food can actually be better for you nutritionally speaking than fresh fruit or vegetables. How is that possible?! Well it all depends on when the produce is harvested and how long it takes to either be frozen or shipped to the grocery store for sale.
Kraig Naasz, President and CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute, says freezing is basically just nature’s pause button, keeping fresh foods at their peak of freshness. When you consider that fresh produce takes a while to get from the farm to the store to your kitchen and into your gullet–that’s a lot of opportunity for the nutrition content of the fresh produce to start depleting. When they’re not destined for freezing, fruits and veggies are often picked before peak ripeness, which doesn’t allow enough time for them to develop their full nutrient spectrum.
In addition, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry recently published a study comparing the vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables when they are refrigerated versus frozen. Nutrient content in corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries and blueberries was measured at various stages of storage in the fridge or freezer and the results were very interesting. The study found that the overall vitamin content of the frozen produce was comparable and even in some cases higher than their fresh counterparts. The exception was the beta-carotene content, which decreased with freezer storage.
Freezing At Home
When you’ve purchased fresh produce from the farmer’s market or grocery store, freezing it right away not only helps you seal in the nutrition, but it also allows for longer storage. In most cases, it’s a good idea to blanch vegetables first in hot water or steam. This kills bacteria and stops the action of certain enzymes that can degrade nutrient content.
What produce can you freeze? Let’s get started…
Chard… Can I Freeze It?
YES YOU CAN! Not many people would think of freezing greens but it is possible. It’s a great idea if you’ve found a particularly attractive price for some beautiful organic chard but fear you may not be able to eat it before it wilts. Freezing greens is also a great idea if you’re a smoothie aficionado. You can add some iciness and extra nutrition to your blended beverages. Frozen greens can also be added easily to homemade soups. A word of warning: hearty greens work best in the freezer, but lettuce greens are not recommended for freezing.
How to freeze greens: Wash the fresh greens and tear them into manageable pieces. Dry the leaves completely, pile them onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, scoop them into a freezer bag for storage, removing as much air as possible.
Red Pepper… Can I Freeze It?
YES YOU CAN! Red or green pepper can be frozen in pieces or whole for easy addition to soups and stir-fries or stuffing and baking. Blanching peppers before freezing is not recommended.
How to freeze peppers: Wash and dry peppers, remove the stem and seeds and cut into your desired shape before freezing on a cookie sheet. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
Broccoli… Can I Freeze It?
YES YOU CAN! Broccoli can easily be cut up and frozen and later boiled for those classic broccoli side dishes. Be sure to wash your broccoli well before freezing to make sure there are no bugs hiding in the trees. Broccoli should definitely be blanched before freezing as well.
How to freeze broccoli: Remove the base of the stems and cut broccoli in to bite-sized pieces. Wash and dry well, and place on a cookie sheet to freeze. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Avocado… Can I Freeze It?
YES YOU CAN! A recent avocado sale left me with a big bag of them and a side of extreme anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to eat them all in time. I thought to myself, “I bet avocados would freeze very well and also be an excellent addition to my smoothies.” I was right.
How to freeze avocado: Make sure the avocado is at peak ripeness before freezing. Wash the rind, peel the avocado and either cut it into chunks or mash it into a puree and scoop it into an ice cube tray to freeze. Avocado will brown with exposure to oxygen, but you can prevent this by tossing the chunks in lemon juice or adding it to the puree.
Lemon… Can I Freeze It?
YES YOU CAN! And in many ways. As someone who uses a lot of lemon in everything from baked goods to beverages, this one is particularly exciting for me. You can freeze lemons in many forms, from whole to slices to juice to zest.
How to freeze lemons: Wash lemons thoroughly. Freeze them whole if you want to juice them later by placing them into a freezer bag and removing as much air as possible. Frozen lemon wedges are excellent additions to beverages. Place fresh-cut wedges on a cookie sheet and freeze, then place in an airtight bag or container to store. You can also freeze lemon zest for an easy addition to baking. Zest the lemon and place it in a small container for freezing. And of course, freezing fresh lemon juice in ice cube trays is pretty much a no-brainer.
Got any veggie or fruit freezing tips? Share them in the comments or over on Twitter at @luvoinc.