The encouragement to “eat your vegetables” is heard around dinner tables throughout the world. Vegetables continue to be a challenge to many persons who have difficulty with taste or texture. Today we have so many options in the produce section to choose vegetables in various stages of preparation: sliced, diced, seasoned, raw, organic and packaged for stir fry to name a few. Vegetables are available raw, frozen, canned, bottled and dehydrated. Each of these preparations change the taste and texture to please even the fussiest person. Did you know when children make healthy food, they are more likely to try it? Involve the entire family or friends to make vegetables more a part of your food choices.

Frozen vegetables are a great option for quick meals. By following these food safety guidelines, you can ensure you stay healthy.

To freeze vegetables, start by washing your hands in warm water with soap, then rinse well. Rinse vegetables under running water. Trim, peel or cut vegetables as desired. Aim for pieces that are about the same size. All vegetables must be blanched or boiled in water before freezing, except celery, onions, peppers and tomatoes. After rinsing these vegetables, drain and package. Beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash should be cooked until done. Cut, mash or blend, if desired, then cool and package. All those not listed must be blanched by using 1 gallon of boiling water in a large pan. To blanch, lower vegetables into the boiling water, then return to boiling for just a few minutes. Visit FoodHero.org for specific time to blanch vegetables. Using a strainer, move vegetables after blanching to a bowl of ice-cold water to cool. Drain, then package for freezing into airtight, freezer-safe containers and label with the vegetable name and date. Remove as much air as possible. Plant tissues have enzymes which effect maturity and ripening of vegetables and fruits. Blanching slows the enzyme activity which helps prevent changes in color, flavor and texture of frozen vegetables.

To freeze tomatoes, rinse in clean water and leave unpeeled or peeled, whole or cut, uncooked or cooked in a freezer safe container. Be sure to write the food item and date frozen on the package.

Never thaw vegetables at room temperature or in warm water. Bacteria rapidly grow at those temperatures. Thaw all the way or partway in the refrigerator or microwave just before using. Add frozen or partially thawed vegetables to recipes such as soups or smoothies. For more information, contact your local Extension office.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at 208-785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.