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Reno Gazette Journal

As summer comes to a close, it’s time to give summer produce the big chill. To lay it up in your freezer so you’ll have melon smoothies or berry crisp or garden tomato sauce even in the bleak midwinter.

Unlike canning, freezing isn’t time-consuming, doesn’t call for special equipment, and doesn’t require adjustments to preparation time to ensure food safety at Northern Nevada’s high altitude.

Freezing preserves the nutritional content of produce to near-fresh levels. Freezing also extends the life of produce, reducing both food waste and trips to the grocery store (a plus during the pandemic).

Below are tips and tactics for freezing a variety of summer produce. NevadaGrown, the advocate for Nevada agriculture and a longtime partner of Taste, contributed to this guide.

Blueberries should not be washed before freezing; washing toughens the skins. (Photo: Getty Images)


  • Zip-close freezer bags are best: quart or gallon size, depending on quantity of food, or pint-size for small servings.
  • Plastic freezer-proof containers also work, but they take up more space.
  • A vacuum sealer is welcome but not necessary.

Before you freeze

  • If you haven’t grown your own produce this summer, find a friend with a big garden and excess produce.
  • Another money-saving strategy: Go to the farmers market about an hour before it closes and ask vendors if they have bulk pricing or blemished fruits or vegetables they’ll sell for a discount. Let them know you are putting up the produce for the winter.
  • Measure and freeze foods in the quantity you will use for your go-to recipes.
  • Some foods are best to pre-freeze by placing them apart in a single layer on a cookie sheet so they’ll freeze separately, then placing them in freezer bags. You can remove fruits separately, and they won’t stick together.
  • Do not add salt to the water when blanching vegetables for freezing.
  • Do not blanche peppers, onions or fruits before freezing.
  • Label and date the freezer bags or containers.

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  • Use within 6 to 8 months.
  • No need to sweeten.
  • Do not wash blueberries before freezing. It makes the skins tough.
  • For strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, rinse gently and allow to dry on paper towels.
  • A good way to rinse berries is to place in a colander and submerge two or three times in a sink full of cold water; drain well.
  • Remove stems before freezing.
  • Freeze in a single layer on a cookie shoot; transfer to a freezer bag.


  • Use within 3 months.
  • De-stem, rinse gently and dry.
  • Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet; transfer to a freezer bag.
  • Great snack to eat frozen or thawed; also great used as “grape cubes” in cocktails.


  • Cantaloupe and watermelon should be used within 3 months.
  • Cut into 1-inch slices.
  • Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet; transfer to a freezer bag.
  • Excellent for smoothies.

Unlike most other vegetables, do not blanche sweet or hot peppers before freezing. (Photo: Getty Images)

Peppers (sweet and hot)

  • Use within 4 to 6 months.
  • Rinse and dry before freezing.
  • For sweet peppers, cut out stems, slice peppers in half, then remove seeds and membrane.
  • For hot peppers, cut out stems and remove seeds and membrane; it’s not necessary to chop hot peppers before freezing.
  • Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet; transfer to a freezer bag.
  • Thawed peppers retain some crispness and can be used in cooked dishes or raw in uncooked dishes.

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  • Use within 12 months.
  • Rinse and dry before freezing.
  • OK to freeze tomatoes raw or cooked.
  • Can be frozen whole, sliced, chopped or puréed. Cut away the stem.
  • Spread whole or cut tomatoes on a cookie sheet and freeze separately before putting in a freezer bag. They won’t stick together. Take out as many as you need for the recipe.
  • Skins are easy to remove from frozen tomatoes; they slide right off.
  • Thawed tomatoes can be used in recipes calling for cooked tomatoes. However, they’re too mushy to substitute for fresh.


  • Un-blanched last 4 to 6 months; blanched, 10 to 12 months.
  • Rinse and dry before preparing to freeze.
  • Grate and portion out zucchini into the amount you’ll need for a recipe (1 cup, 2 cups and so on). Squeeze out any excess liquid. Drain any excess liquid after thawing and before you use in the recipe. Great for breads, cookies and recipes calling for grated zucchini.
  • Alternately, cut zucchini into 1/2-inch slices, blanch in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool, then drain and bag. Do not add salt to the water. Good for soups and stews.


  • Thaw 1 pound of frozen produce for 6 to 8 hours in a refrigerator set to 40 F or colder, turning package every so often.
  • Frozen produce also can be thawed in cold water, replacing the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  • Microwave thawing is not suitable for most produce except berries that will be served right away (place berries on a plate in a single layer, then use defrost setting in 30-second increments until thawed).
  • Frozen berries do not need to be thawed before being used in baked goods.
  • Most frozen vegetables do not need to be thawed before cooking. Two exceptions: corn on the cob or leafy greens, which should be partly thawed.

Freeze summer blackberries and raspberries, then use them later in the year in an easy crisp served in attractive jars. (Photo: Provided to RGJ Media)

Frozen Berry Crisp

6 cups fresh blackberries or raspberries or a combination of the two OR 6 cups frozen blackberries or raspberries or a combination of the two (do not need to thaw berries)

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 to 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats (NOT quick-cooking oats)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon water

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange fruit in a greased square pan, 8 inches by 8 inches by 2 inches. Lightly sprinkle fruit with cinnamon. Mix remaining ingredients and sprinkle over fruit. Bake until topping is golden brown and crisp is bubbling in center, 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve alone or, if desired, with whipped cream or ice cream and garnished with mint. Serves 6.


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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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