Preserving Without Canning: Tips and Tricks for Spring Produce

Canning isn't the only way to preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables. Spring favorites like strawberries, peas, and rhubarb may be frozen, dried, made into vinegar, and more. Read on for tips and share your own ideas in the comments. Asparagus: Nothing beats tender, fresh asparagus, and although it can be dehydrated or frozen, we prefer to keep this vegetable a seasonal delicacy. During the season, however, asparagus quick pickles are a fun treat. This recipe from Sunset can be ready in less than an hour, but it's even better after a day or two.

Fava Beans: Fava beans may be labor intensive to prepare, but they are absolutely worth the effort. This year we're making and freezing Eugenia Bone's recipe for fava bean cream, a "tasty puree that lends a bit of spring to any dish."

Green Peas: Frozen peas are handy for throwing into pasta, rice, soup, and other dishes year round. Wash and shell fresh peas, blanch for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, cool in an ice bath, and drain. Freeze in an airtight bag or container with 1/2-inch headspace (the space between the top of the food and the inside of the lid) to allow for food expansion.

Radishes: Radish roots don't freeze or dry very well, but they make lovely quick pickles. Check out Dana's recipe here. Radish greens may also be used for pesto. To freeze the pesto, store it in an airtight container with 1/2-inch headspace.

Ramps: Like radish greens, ramps are delicious in pesto, which may be frozen for later (we like Food52's recipe). Pickled ramps are also wonderful; try this recipe that will last a couple weeks or even months in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb: Freeze rhubarb to use throughout the year in baked goods and compotes. Wash and cut the stalks into smaller pieces, blanch for 1 minute, cool in an ice bath, and drain. Freeze in an airtight bag or container with 1/2-inch headspace to allow for food expansion. If you love rhubarb pie, you could also freeze the filling in the shape of the pan! Syrup and ice cubes are options, too.

Spinach: To freeze spinach for use in dips, soups, frittatas, and more, select tender, young green leaves. Wash the leaves, blanch for 2 minutes, cool in an ice bath, and drain. Freeze in an airtight bag or container with 1/2-inch headspace to allow for food expansion.

Strawberries: Sweet strawberries may be preserved in countless ways. Check out these tips for making vinegar, fruit leather, dried strawberries, shrub, and soda. To make strawberry jam without canning, you could go the route of freezer jam.

• For more tips on food preservation, including freezing and drying, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.

Related: Weekend Project: Freezing Fresh Produce

(Images: Emily Ho)

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