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Freeze Your Garden Harvest in 4 Easy Steps

Too many vegetables to eat? Freeze them for fresh-tasting produce year-round.

Summer is a time of abundance when farms and gardens begin exploding with life. If you grow a portion of your own food or have a farm share, it can sometimes be difficult to eat all of it before it goes bad. Canning is always an option, but it’s labor-intensive, and canned vegetables lose their fresh flavor. That’s where freezing comes in. Freezing vegetables the right way ensures you can enjoy them when you’re ready to eat them.

Most vegetables can be prepared for freezing in under 10 minutes. And, if you freeze them soon after picking, frozen vegetables retain much of the flavor and nutrients they had when they were fresh.

Prepping Vegetables For The Freezer

Most vegetables need to be blanched in boiling water or steam before they can be frozen. The only exceptions are herbs and green peppers. Blanching stops the enzyme action inside the vegetable, which will prevent the loss of flavor, texture, and nutrients. It also destroys any surface dirt or bacteria and softens the vegetables so they pack more tightly in their containers during freezing.

For most vegetables, freezer bags are a great option. They are moisture and vapor resistant to prevent freezer burn, and can be flat packed on top of one another to maximize freezer space. In addition, it’s easy to push all of the air out of a small opening at the top of a freezer bag before sealing for optimum freshness. Square or rectangular plastic containers are another good choice, as they can be easily stacked.

Follow These 4 Easy Steps

Before blanching, first wash your vegetables thoroughly in cold water and cut them up into small pieces. Large root vegetables should be cut into half-inch cubes, broccoli and cauliflower should be separated into small spears, and carrots, parsnips and other long vegetables should be cut into half-inch slices. Small vegetables, such as lima beans or peas, and very narrow vegetables, such as green beans or asparagus, can be left whole. Cabbage, spinach, or greens should be shredded or separated into individual leaves.

1. Blanch

Boiling water for blanching pea pods, plunged in an ice bath

To blanch in boiling water, boil one gallon of water in a large kettle with a lid. Using a metal basket or cheesecloth, lower one pound of vegetables into the water and cover. To steam blanch, boil two inches of water in a kettle with a tight-fitting lid. Place a steaming basket at least three inches above the bottom of the kettle. Lay a single layer of vegetables in the basket, cover and keep on high heat.

Blanching time varies, depending on the size and density of the vegetables you are preparing. It’s important to get the blanching time exactly right, because under-blanching can stimulate the enzymes in the plant, making it break down faster, while over-blanching will strip out valuable vitamins and minerals. Steam blanching takes longer than boiling. Consult the table below for boiling times. For steaming, add another minute for every five minutes of boiling time.

2. Ice Water Bath

Once the vegetables have been blanched, it’s important to plunge them into a container of ice-cold water for the same number of minutes you blanched them. Fill the container with one pound of ice for every pound of vegetables. This will stop them from cooking any more, and becoming soggy. After cooling, remove the vegetables from the water and drain them well.

3. Bag ‘Em

After cooling, your vegetables are ready to freeze. Simply place them into freezer bags or containers, leaving a little headspace so they have room to expand while freezing. Half an inch in rigid containers, or three inches in a freezer bag, is plenty.

4. Label & Freeze

Food freezing - Frozen food

Be sure to label each bag or container with the contents and the date of freezing. Food frozen to 0°F is safe to eat indefinitely, but the quality may begin to suffer over time. Most vegetables will retain their freshness in a freezer for several months to a year.

Blanching Times

Here is a handy guide to blanching times for some of the most common vegetables:

Asparagus: 2-4 minutes, depending on size.
Beets (Whole): 25-30 minutes. (Slice after blanching).
Beans (Snap, Green or Wax): 3 minutes
Broccoli: 3 minutes.
Brussels Sprouts: 3-5 minutes, depending on size.
Cabbage: 1 1/2 minutes.
Carrots (sliced or diced): 2 minutes.
Cauliflower (flowerets, 1 inch across): 3 minutes.
Corn on the Cob (small ears): 7 minutes
Eggplant: 4 minutes.
Greens (Beet greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach): 2 minutes; Collards need 3 minutes.
Lima Beans: 2-4 minutes, depending on size.
Onions Whole: 2 ½ minutes; rings: 10-15 seconds
Parsnips (Sliced): 2 minutes.
Peas Edible pods: 1 ½ minutes; green/shelled: 1 ½ minutes
Potatoes (Irish new): 3-5 minutes
Rutabagas: 3 minutes.
Soybeans: 6 minutes.
Summer Squash (Zucchini, Yellow, White Scallop): 1-3 minutes.
Turnips (Cubed): 2 minutes.

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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I love the farmers almanac!!

Shantel Kuest

Oh no I just froze peas fresh I didn’t blanch them so are they gonna be no good now ??

Susan Higgins

Hi Shantel Kuest: They should be OK. Conventional wisdom tells us that certain veggies need to be blanched before freezing, peas being one. But if you’re going to be using them soon, you should be ok. If you’re freezing for any length of time, blanching retains the flavor best. Here are the vegetables that really don’t need blanching: No Need for Blanching!

Joanne Donovan

I was wondering about fruits. Anyone have an easy way to freeze peaches watermelon cantalope etc?

Ray Harvey

This information will be most helpfull to me. Planted to directions on your web site hopeing for a good harvest to share with family and friends.

Kellie Hunt

I worry the freezer may die,so even though I freeze stuff cause it’s easy,I can alot too.

Sandra Floyd

Thanks for great information.


Thanks for the info. I needed a list for the vegetables, now i can freeze alot of veggies this winter. It will save me alot at the grocery store. 🙂

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