How to Store Fruits and Veggies
Learning how to store fruits and veggies can be intimidating. There are many ways to do it, and while most fruits and vegetables can be stored in many ways, not all store well.
When you want to store fruits and veggies, you have many choices. You can water bath or pressure can them, you can dry them, freeze them, or store as is in cool, humid, ventilated conditions. Fermentation and pickling are other methods.
If you are new to preserving techniques, it can be hard to know what works best for the particular food you have to store. Here is a guide to produce you’ll see most often in Maryland, and what techniques work best for each.
Apples and Pears
Apples, in particular, are the best fruits for storing as is. Pears, though less common, are similar fruits as well. Apples will store fresh for months if stored in root cellar conditions.
Apples (and pears too) are great for applesauce and apple butters. You can water bath can both applesauce and apple butter. Dehydrated apples and pears are also great for snacking, for rehydrating later, and for desserts.
Berries, or most small soft fruits, are best frozen for later. Freezing blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, currants and gooseberries is the best way to enjoy fresh tasting berries all winter.
You may choose to dry berries as well. Dried berries are delicious as snacks.
Canning whole small fruits is done, but more often you’ll see jams and preserves made from berries.
Berries are very delicate, so they won’t last long. They do hold up very well to freezing.
Cherries preserve much like berries, but have a pit in them that requires removal. Once the pit is removed, freezing is best, but drying and canning are also delicious options.
Cranberries last on their own in your fridge for at least two weeks. If you want them to last longer, throw them in the freezer. You can then make sauces or juices when you have time later.
Cantaloupes and watermelons can be frozen or dried. Use frozen melon in smoothies, and dried melon as delicious snacks.
Peaches, Plums, and Apricots
Peaches, plums and apricots, plus their variations like nectarines and pluots, are all stone fruits. Like cherries, they have pits. However, they are much bigger and the pits are easy to remove.
I love peaches frozen, canned, and dried, and made all three this summer. Frozen is easiest, which is why I have way more of them than canned. The dried peaches were eaten quickly.
The stone fruits are great in any form. Freezing them is easiest, and you can always take frozen peaches and later dry or can them. They don’t last long, like berries, so once you buy them let them soften a bit and then preserve them before they get too soft.
Greens are a large category, as there are so many leaves out there we can eat. Some are more delicate than others. The very delicate (like lettuce), aren’t worth preserving. You’d be better off growing more indoors in the winter.
Hardier greens like spinach, kale, and collards are great frozen. In general, if you normally cook a green, you can freeze it. If you prefer your greens raw, then grow your own.
You can easily grow herbs, microgreens, and smaller leafy plants indoors all winter. If you like cooked greens, freeze what you plan to eat.
Asparagus‘s season is fleeting. And asparagus doesn’t keep well. It’s best to enjoy it fresh, but you can freeze it for later use in soups. Canned asparagus is mush. If you really want asparagus flavor, pressure can or dry it, then use in blended soups.
Root vegetables are abundant in the winter for good reasons. They last a long time without any modern preserving techniques. If you can offer cold, humid, ventilated root cellar conditions, you too can store many roots most of the winter.
Your roots include beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, turnips, radishes, rutabagas and sweet potatoes. Some need to be stored in damp sand, others wrapped in paper, or left as is. You can store most of them in the garden, under mulch.
Roots freeze well, too. You can easily roast frozen root vegetables and they will taste pretty good.
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower
Cabbage can be treated like a root and stored as is for quite some time. You may also enjoy fermenting it and making sauerkraut.
Celery can be stored in your fridge, wrapped in foil, for up to a month. Celery stores well in a root cellar as well, when kept moist but not wet. You can also freeze your celery for cooking it later.
Fresh corn on the cob needs to be eaten quickly, as sugars start turning to starch immediately. More modern varieties give you an extra day or two, but you still need to preserve your corn soon.
Fortunately, corn is great frozen, or dried for later soups and casseroles. You can try pressure canning it or pickling corn as well. Freezing is easiest and quick.
Cucumbers don’t preserve well at all. You can ferment or pickle them, but since they are a vegetable usually eaten fresh, you won’t want to freeze or dry them. Enjoy them fresh and pickle some for later.
Eggplant does not last very long under the best conditions, and doesn’t like the cold. If you can’t eat it within a few days of bringing it home, freezing it is the best option.
Frozen eggplant will be mushier when thawed, but should be fine in cooked dishes. If you like roasted eggplant, consider roasting it before freezing.
Green beans are great frozen and pressure canned. Traditionally green beans are blanched before freezing, but there are a few rebels out there that say you don’t have to. Freezing your beans is the easiest way to preserve them for later.
Freezing is the easiest way to preserve okra, though there are some that choose to pressure can okra or pickle it. If you don’t eat a lot of okra, I’d freeze it for gumbo later.
Onion and Garlic Family
Onions and garlic, stored dry and cool, will last for months. You can choose to dry them, but most people would be better off finding a cool and dry location at home to store their garlic and onions. Shallot bulbs can also be stored like onions.
Leeks, while of the onion family, have no bulbs. They don’t freeze well, store well, or pressure can well. If you must have leeks, try drying them for later use. Green onions, on the other hand, can be frozen.
Like most vegetables, peas need pressure canning. Thus, freezing is the easiest method to preserve them. Both shelled peas and snow peas can be frozen for cooking later. Blanch them first to preserve their color.
The easiest way to preserve peppers is by freezing, but they also work very well dried and pickled for later. Try adding them to salsa and relish recipes as well. Dried peppers are great in soups and stews, or can be crushed to make different pepper powders.
Both sweet and hot varieties of peppers can be dried for later! Save your favorite peppers to add flavor to your dishes all winter long.
Summer Squash and Zucchinis
You may have way too much zucchini in your garden each year, or you may have way too many squash vine borers instead. Guess which I tend to have? Still, summer squash and zucchinis are abundant at the farmers market during the summer.
Your summer squashes are delicate, and don’t hold up to pressure canning. They don’t last long either. Freezing them is your best option, followed by drying. Freezing shredded batches means easy zucchini bread for later!
Tomatoes are popular for a reason. They can well, dry well, and freeze well. They don’t keep long fresh, but you can preserve them in so many ways and they still taste delicious!
During summer, if you have a glut of tomatoes, try freezing them at first. You can always dry or can them later when you have time. Once the tomatoes thaw, skins slip right off. That means freezing them helps you skip the blanching step for canning or drying later.
Tomatoes go well in everything. I use a lot of canned tomatoes for pizza sauce, to add nutrition to soups, and for homemade salsas. Freeze them first, then if you need freezer space, can or dry them later!
Winter Squashes and Pumpkins
And finally, winter squashes and pumpkins are fabulous because they last a long time on their own. Properly cured (hardened in the sun for a week after harvest), they can last 2-4 months at cool temperatures.
As you empty your freezer in the winter, you can then cut up and freeze your squashes too. Acorns last only 5-8 weeks, but hubbards can last a year.
You can pressure can your squash if you wish, but freezing takes less work!
To store fruits and veggies, most can be canned, dried, pickled, and frozen. There are a few that are more limited. If you have a lot of something, go look for advice for other methods. You may love using dried vegetables, or making vegetable powders for later. You might really go for pickled foods.
In general, most things freeze well, and most fruits can be water bath canned. If you don’t have a dehydrator or pressure canner, you might want to stick with freezing or drying in small amounts.
Visiting your local farmers markets throughout the winter means they store fruits and veggies at their farms and you can buy from them.
Eating locally and seasonally through the winter takes planning, but is definitely possible. Storing your favorites at home can make it much easier!