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The beginner's guide to preserving fresh produce.

Want to save money and boost nutrition? Try preserving fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden or the farmers market to use year-round -- no water bath or pressure cooker required! The trick: Let your freezer do the work.

And don't worry; we won't get too complicated here. This is a beginner's course to preserving food. Only the absolutely easiest ways to freeze and preserve fruits, vegetables, and herbs will be discussed! If you have a handful of freezer plastic bags, a mixing spoon, a refrigerator, and microwave or stove, you have everything you need to get started.

Here are some tips, techniques, and recipes to help you get started freezing fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Dry Pack Freezing Technique for Fruit

The dry pack freezing method involves freezing individual slices or pieces of fruit on a cookie sheet. Just spread out the pieces of fruit on a cookie sheet or jellyroll plan (line the pan with wax paper if you like) and place in the freezer. When the pieces are solidly frozen, remove them with a spatula or large spoon and pack in plastic freezer bags or freezer containers.

Berries are great candidates for freezing. Here are three steps to freezing raspberries or blackberries:

  • Gently wash the berries and remove any damaged pieces of fruit. Drain.
  • Spread berries on a tray or cookie sheet (lined with wax paper, if desired) and place in the freezer until each piece is frozen.
  • Pack frozen fruit in containers or freezer bags. Seal well and keep in the freezer until needed.

You can also freeze apple slices to use for apple pie. Just wash the apples in cold water, cut them into quarters and remove the core. Cut the quarters into slices, and use the dry pack freezing technique described above.

And believe it or not, the same method works for whole tomatoes. After Florida resident Tarrant Figlio, a message board moderator for WebMD, planted too many tomato plants last summer, she discovered a nifty way to preserve them for winter.

She washed her extra tomatoes, put them whole on cookie sheets, and then froze them. Once they were frozen, she put them in freezer bags. To use them, she just rinsed them under warm water to remove the skins.

"I didn't have the time or energy to can them all, plus was a little nervous about the acidity safety issue," Figlio says. "I used them mostly in recipes that call for cooked/canned tomatoes ... not fresh; because the texture gets mushy once they are thawed."

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