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Cheryle Jones Syracuse
Family and Consumer Science Staff
NC Cooperative Extension
Brunswick County Center
The great weather we’ve been having lures me into dreaming of fresh garden fruits and vegetables soon to come, but that doesn’t mean we need to forget about frozen fruits and vegetables, too.
I know, right now one of the most popular topics is farm-to-table. This means eating fresh foods from local farms and as quickly as possible after they are picked. I really agree with this. Buy locally and eat locally because you sure can’t beat the taste and freshness of a good local strawberry or other fruits and vegetables, and, it also helps our local economy.
Sometimes it isn’t always possible and that is where frozen fruits and vegetables come into the picture. I know some of you may be thinking that I’m contradicting myself. Do you want fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables? In an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables, you may want a combination of both. It really depends on the situation.
Frozen foods have been part of the American dinner plate since 1930 when Clarence Birdseye (yes, there really was a Clarence Birdseye) created the first line of frozen foods. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to frozen foods:
Economical: Since frozen fruits and vegetables are not influenced by the influx of seasonal pricing due to harvest times and supply and demand, prices remain relatively constant. Watch for sales and stock up when the prices are hot!
Convenient: No washing, peeling, slicing, dicing or chopping required. Many varieties even come in a steam-able pouch to make preparation faster and easier.
A staple in the freezer: Wasting food equals wasting money! When handled properly, frozen fruits and vegetables can maintain a long shelf life.
Always in season: No worries here! We can enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables all year round. This means you never have to run out of fruits and vegetables, which means you can have healthier meals every day.
Nutritious: Frozen foods can be just as nutritious as fresh. Since fruits and vegetables are flash frozen immediately after harvest, nutrition is at the peak of perfection.
Good tasting: Flash-freezing locks in the flavors.
Some fruits and vegetables can be just as good purchased frozen as they are fresh. In some cases, they may actually be better. Why do I say this? If you keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your fridge for a long time, they will lose some nutritional value. Just think about that old carrot in the drawer of your refrigerator. How much flavor and nutrition do you think it has left? The key here is to buy only the amount of fresh items that you can eat while they are at their peak.
Some frozen fruits and vegetables retain more nutrients than fresh that have been stored or shipped for a long distance from field to supermarket. While foods are being shipped, they are losing nutrients. Another reason to shop and eat local foods.
Frozen food is picked at ripeness and flash frozen as soon as possible, so the maximum nutrients are retained, but you do lose some nutrients during freezing. There is a small nutrient loss in the actual freezing process.
Vegetables are washed, peeled and perhaps blanched done prior to freezing. The point of blanching is to retain the color of vegetables. Blanching can affect heat-sensitive nutrients. For example, thiamin, a B vitamin, is susceptible to heat and blanching can decrease the levels of thiamin.
Vitamin C is easily lost in both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. The longer the food is kept, the more vitamin C is lost. For example, green beans lose a lot of vitamin C within 24 hours of being picked. If the food is frozen quickly, you’ll have less nutrient loss, but some still is lost during longer storage and freezing.
If you do buy frozen fruits and vegetables, you want to keep the quality the best, so keep proper temperature in mind from store or market to table. Shop for shelf staple items first and then get the fresh and frozen items towards the end of the shopping trip. Keep a cooler in your car for the trip home, to keep the foods as cold as possible. Thawed and refrozen foods lose quality.
Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Buy local when you can. Buy only the amount of fresh items what you’ll use in a short period of time. Eat fresh foods as soon as possible after picking or purchasing. Keep what you have safe. Buy frozen when it’s appropriate.
Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at NC Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at (910) 253-2610.