One of the most popular squash varieties, you can use zucchini or courgettes for anything, starting from salads and pasta to baked goods, casseroles, and stuffing. The only catch is that being a summer squash, it does not have a very long shelf life. Though this problem can be remedied easily by freezing them when fresh, and here are a few easy ways to do it.
Zucchini freezes rather well both raw and cooked. The shelf life varies depending on how you save it, but generally, it keeps fresh for at least 3-4 months. Some people keep it for up to a year, but preserving it for that long does affect its taste and freshness.
It is possible to freeze them uncooked as well as after cooking into certain preparations.
Start with washing them well since storing them without cleaning properly is unhygienic, posing risks of health problem later.
Decide what you will be doing with the vegetable, so you know whether to slice, dice, or chop it. You may also cut it into thick strings, or shred it into zucchini noodles or spaghetti, also known as ‘zoodles’. Whether you are going to peel them is up to you. Some people prefer to leave the skin on unless it is too tough to eat, as it keeps them firmer.
You need to cut the squash into your preferred form before freezing, as it no longer possible to make neat pieces after thawing them.
Put larger slices or dice-cut zucchini in a large pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes, till they are somewhat soft with the color turning a brighter green. Make sure they do not turn mushy. For spiralized or shredded zucchini, steam it for no more than 2 minutes in a steamer basket.
Once done, dump the zucchini in ice water for up to 5 minutes, followed by keeping them in a colander for draining.
Do not add salt in the boiling water, as it might cause the squash to turn soft. Also, if you are blanching in multiple batches, make sure to chop enough for only one batch at a time as the pieces will turn brown if left for long after cutting.
Blanching is recommended before freezing most fresh vegetables, as it helps to retain their color. Additionally, it keeps the natural enzymes of a vegetable intact, preserving its flavor and nutritional value for longer. So, it is better to blanch the zucchini before freezing. Still, it might seem like too much work especially when you are freezing a lot of zucchinis.
You may skip blanching if you are planning to use the vegetable within 2-3 months. Just follow the next steps for freezing directly. But if storing for longer, blanching is the best way to go.
Do not fill the freezer bag all the way to the top, and press it before locking to eliminate as much air as possible. The second step makes sure that the pieces are frozen individually, making it easier for you to use them later.
Put them in a bowl of warm water for a while to thaw them back into their original state. You can use these for both frying and baking.
Spiralized or Zucchini Noodles/Zoodles:
According to many, freezing zoodles is not that good an idea as it tends to get a little too soft or watery after thawing. Due to this, they recommend storing other vegetable noodles like sweet potato, and other squashes. You can still do it if you want to ― simply put the zoodles in a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze. Put it in boiling water for a few minutes to thaw.
Some choose to add salt to the noodles and soak it in a paper towel before freezing as it makes them more suitable to be cooked in heavier spaghetti sauces.
Shredded or Grated Zucchini:
Same as the noodles, you need to steam it and put it in an airtight bag before it is frozen. Thaw them in the same method as above and use in zucchini bread, muffins, and other recipes.
If you have too many zucchinis growing in your garden, it might not be possible to peel and prepare them all for storing. In such a case you can just wash them well and freeze them in large freezer bags. Though it is not the ideal way, they will remain good for longer to be used later.
Since they do not remain as firm upon thawing, there are limited options for what you can do with them. Chop them and add to mixed vegetables, soups, and pasta sauce.
One of the best things about this summer squash is that you can freeze it for 2-3 months even after cooking. Items like stuffed zucchini boats and lasagna freeze pretty well. All you need to do is place them in sealable freezer bags, get rid of any excess air, lock them, and freeze for later use.
When thawing, keep the freezer bag in the refrigerator overnight. Then, heat it up thoroughly in an oven or microwave.
Once frozen, the zucchini will not remain suitable for stir-fries, salads, and steamed vegetable dishes. But, there’s still a host of delicious recipes you can try with them. You need to choose the recipes that suit the form of your frozen zucchini. Here are a few simple ideas:
Even with the limitations you face with frozen vegetables, these recipes prove that freezing and storing zucchinis is totally worth your while. All these recipes can give you your own unique ideas too. Feel free to chare them with us here.
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