Harvesting Peppers and Freezing Them
by Dawn Lesley Stewart
I love cooking with green and red bell peppers. During the summer, it is easy to step into the garden to pick what I wish to use. Or perhaps you have a favorite garden stand you enjoy visiting where the price is right for fresh produce. Here is how I capture all that delicious pepper taste for use during the cold months.
I harvest peppers as they ripen in the garden. I pick both green and red bell peppers. If green peppers are showing signs of turning red, I pick them and bring them indoors. Usually after a few days, the entire pepper changes to a beautiful red color. For some reason, if I leave the reddening pepper on the plant, there is a good chance it will rot.
When you pick the green and red peppers, leave the stem on the top. Also choose peppers that are in good condition (ex: free of insect damage). As a rule, I prefer freezing the peppers the same day they are picked, though you can wait a day or two. Peppers can lose their crispness over time, so I like to freeze them as soon as possible.
Preparing the Peppers for Freezing
Wash each pepper and dry it. Next you will need: 1) a cutting board, 2) a sharp knife, 3) a large bowl, and 4) some freezer bags.
Select a pepper. Cut a circle, using a knife, around the stem portion of the pepper. Gently tug on the stem to remove the cut circular section. Place the stem portion in the large bowl (which will be used to hold the stems and discarded seeds – I later add these to my compost bin).
On the cutting board, slice the pepper in half from the top to the bottom. Tap each pepper half against the bowl rim to remove most of the pepper seeds. Using the knife, remove any extra seeds still inside the pepper. Also trim away excess rib material that might be on the inside of the pepper wall.
Once the pepper is cleaned and the seeds removed, it is time to cut the pepper halves into long slices. Slice from the top to the bottom of the pepper halves. Keep cutting the pepper halves, creating several of these long pieces. Next, holding those slices together in a bunch, take the knife and cut horizontally across them to create smaller pieces. Cut the pieces into the size you like to cook with. For instance, they might be about a quarter- to a half-inch in size.
Freezing the Peppers
As each group of pieces is cut, I place them in a freezer bag. You can separate the green peppers into one bag, and the red peppers into a different bag … or feel free to create a colorful mix.
You can use whatever size bag works best for you. Open the bag and lay it on a flat surface (this is important). Make sure to evenly spread the pepper pieces inside across the bag. Keep the layer of pepper pieces thin. If the peppers are piled in the bag in a large blob, they will freeze into a hard block that is difficult to break apart.
Keeping the bag flat on the table, push the air out of it and seal it. When placing the bag in the freezer, keep it flat. The peppers will be much easier to separate this way. I also use a Sharpie marker to write the date on each bag.
Using Frozen Peppers
There is nothing special you have to do. Just open the bag and pull out however many peppers you wish to add to your recipe. I add frozen peppers to everything from omelets to spaghetti sauce. They taste great and add nice color to the meal.
Happy Gardening !
Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.
Copyright 2010 Dawn Lesley Stewart