CORVALLIS, Ore. – Is your garden produce piling up? Freezing is one of the simplest and least time-consuming methods of preservation, according to Carolyn Raab, food and nutrition specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service.
To help you maintain top quality when freezing home produce, the Oregon State University Extension Service offers the publication "Freezing Fruits and Vegetables," (PNW 214) online.
Keep in mind that freezing can affect the texture of some fruits and vegetables. Water makes up much of the weight of most fruits and vegetables and is held within cell walls that give structure and texture to the produce.
When the water freezes, it expands and ruptures the cell walls. Consequently, the texture of frozen produce softens when thawed. Produce that is higher in water softens more. Frozen tomatoes or strawberries, for example, become mushy and watery when thawed. Use them in cooked foods such as stews or jams.
Textural changes are not as apparent in high-starch vegetables, such as peas, corn and lima beans. Blueberries are an example of a fruit that freezes well with little textural change. If fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly, they maintain better texture.
The OSU publication offers guidelines for freezing many different kinds of fruits, vegetables and juices. It includes information on:
- freezing fruits with or without sugar or syrup;
- freezing vegetables, including blanching methods;
- correct packing and loading into the freezer.
Several other OSU Extension food preservation and storage publications are available online. Topics include picking and storing apples and pears, storing pumpkin and winter squash, making dried fruit leather, pickling fish, and canning and freezing fruits, vegetables and seafood. To order a printed copy of the complete catalog of publications and videos, call 1-800-561-6719.
In addition, home food preservers in Oregon can get answers to questions by calling the OSU Extension Food Safety/Preservation hotline until Sept. 30 at 1-800-354-7319, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except holidays). The hotline is operated by OSU Extension Service volunteers and Extension staff.