Freezing fruits and vegetables can be a good way to preserve your harvests, but it is not recommended for all types of produce. Freezing preserves fresh foods because it stalls the activity of enzymes that cause color loss, nutrient loss and flavor changes. Freezing has a unique effect on fruits and vegetables because these foods have a high water content. This water is stored within cells, and the walls of these cells provide a crunchy texture. When frozen, the water expands, damaging the cell walls. As a result, once defrosted, some fruits and vegetables turn soft, mushy and watery.
Keep in mind that the decision of whether to freeze a fruit or vegetable depends on how you plan to use it. In recipes like stews, casseroles or puréed soups, where texture isn’t important and a watery consistency might not hurt, you can get away with adding some frozen vegetables. But when it comes to eating them raw and enjoying the best possible flavor, skip the freezer and pick another form of preservation for these fruits and veggies.
Freezing causes celery to become limp and soft with an unpleasant flavor. Try pickling celery in sticks or slices to enjoy as a snack or as an addition to sandwiches and salads.
Citrus fruits become soft and mushy after being frozen. You can preserve grapefruits and orange segments by canning them in juice or syrup. Lemons can be preserved in salt and spices. Thin slices of citrus can be dehydrated at low heat in the oven, or with a food dehydrator.
Freezing raw cucumbers turns them limp and can lead to an unpleasant color, aroma and flavor. Cucumbers can be preserved when turned into home-canned relishes and pickles. If you want to freeze cucumbers, try freezer pickles. Freezer pickle recipes contain other ingredients that will help cucumbers maintain their crispness better than when cucumbers are frozen alone.
4. Green peppers
Freezing not only makes green peppers become watery and mushy, it can also cause them to develop a bitter flavor. Use up green peppers by incorporating them into home-canned salsas and hot sauces.
Lettuce and other types of delicate greens turn mushy and watery after being frozen. Lettuce is a difficult vegetable to preserve and is best enjoyed fresh during the harvest season. If you’re tired of eating traditional salads, try sautéing your lettuce and/or greens, make lettuce wraps, or roast sturdy greens like kale for vegetable chips.
Parsley and other leafy herbs become limp when frozen and can also develop an unpleasant aroma and flavor. Consider drying herbs to preserve them. They can be hung stem-side up to air dry, or dry leaves in the oven on a baking sheet on low heat for about four hours.
When potatoes are frozen, the water separates from the starch causing them to become watery when reheated. While some small, waxy varieties can be frozen if blanched, the best option to extend the life of potatoes is storage in root cellar conditions. Keep them in a well-ventilated, cool, dark place at 45 to 50 degrees F.
Radishes lose their crisp texture and become soft once frozen. Try pickling radishes alone or with other root vegetables. Pickled radishes are delicious as a sandwich topping or when chopped and sprinkled over a salad.
Freezing watermelon causes it to become mushy with an unpleasant texture. Watermelon can be pickled or turned into jelly for home canning. It can also be puréed and then dehydrated to make fruit leather for snacking.
About the Author: Lori Rice is a nutritionist, writer, recipe developer and author of The Everything Guide to Food Remedies (Adams Media, 2011). She shares her recipes, food photography and travel adventures on her blog, www.fakefoodfree.com.