If done properly, frozen fruits and vegetables will be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Freezing is a quick and easy way to preserve foods and CPMA has compiled a few tips to help you get the best value from your fruit and vegetables. If you plan to freeze your fresh fruits and vegetables, select the freshest, best quality produce at the peak of maturity. Fruits should be ripe but firm, avoid over ripe or spoiled produce.
Download CPMA’s Fruit Freezing Guide and Vegetable Freezing Guide for full details including itemized tables with specific preparation and freezing tips.
Minimize Quality Loss During Freezing
Enzymes are responsible for changes in fruits and vegetables during ripening. These changes are desirable until the food reaches its peak of maturity, then ripening must be stopped to prevent eventual spoilage.
- Control enzyme activity by blanching the fruits and vegetables you intend to freeze. Blanching and freezing slows enzyme activity.
What is blanching?
- Fruits and vegetables contain a high proportion of water which will form ice crystals when frozen. The sharp edges and corners of the ice crystals will puncture cell walls softening the texture and causing juice loss. To minimize ice crystals drain the fruits and vegetables well and freeze them as quickly as possible. Keep your freezer at a constant temperature of -18°C (0°F) or lower.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables lose moisture in a dry freezer if they are not properly packaged. This drying is called freezer burn. To avoid freezer burn, use appropriate packaging. Remove as much air as possible from the packages before freezing the fruits and vegetables.
Tip: Freezer burnt areas should be discarded.
Six Steps to Success with Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
- Prepare produce quickly and carefully. Wash in cold water using a soft brush. Drain well and blot with clean tea towel or paper towels. Remove all excess moisture from the fruits and vegetables to avoid formation of ice crystals.
- To hasten freezing of your fruits and vegetables or to freeze pieces individually, use the tray freezing method. To tray freeze place pieces of fruits or vegetables in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow pan, place uncovered in freezer for 1 to 2 hours. When frozen, package accordingly. Tray freezing allows fruits and vegetables to maintain their shape and avoid sticking together.
- Package in clean, food safe plastic packaging to maintain quality and protect the fruits and vegetables from freezer burn.
Tip: Use freezer tape if necessary to seal the packaging.
- Freeze fruits and vegetables at -18°C (0°F) or lower, as soon as packaged. Most fruits and vegetables can be kept frozen for up to 1 year.
- Thaw foods carefully.
- Be careful not to overcook frozen vegetables.