Frozen food better then fresh

Do you leave fresh fruit and vegetables lying around in your fridge for several days before consuming them?

It turns out that storing fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge, even for a couple of days, reduces vitamin content in those products.

Obviously when we buy fresh food we want it to be as nutritious as possible. So what can we do to prevent degradation in food and eat the freshest and most nutritious food?

Freezing – natures pause button

Several recent studies have concluded that frozen fruits and vegetables are equal to fresh when it comes to vitamin and mineral content and retain even more vitamins than produce stored in the fridge for several days.

Dr.Ronald Pegg, associate professor of food science and technology at UGA, led one of the studies. His team bought blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, corn, spinach, cauliflower and green peas from six local stores over a period of two years. Selected vitamin and mineral content were analyzed for fresh products, products stored for 5 days and frozen products.

The results showed that fruits and vegetables are going to have a different nutrient profile after storage than they had when they were taken from the field. Pegg said:”The vitamins and nutrients in fruits and vegetables degrade over time, and we found that frozen fruits and vegetables may offer more nutrition than fresh, when storage is taken into account.”

Freshly frozen the next best thing

Enzymes, which are naturally found in fruit and vegetables help them grow and ripen. After harvesting though, they cause loss of quality, flavor, color, texture and nutrients. The more time fresh products stay in storage before being consumed the less nutritious they are going to be. The reason frozen products are high in vitamins and minerals is because fresh produce is blanched before freezing, disabling the enzymes during frozen storage.

So what is the best thing we can do if we don’t have our garden and can’t eat our veggies right of the field? It seems that buying fresh and consuming immediately is the best practice or freeze fresh products if you are not going to eat them immediately. It’s better to freeze fruits and vegetables than to let them lie around in the fridge.

Freshly frozen food seems to be the next best thing to fresh. That way food stays nutritious, waste is minimized and we can enjoy healthy food. The trick is to freeze it the right way so it can stay packed with all the vitamins and minerals. Check out the chart below for proper vegetable freezing.

Table 1. Vegetable freezing guide. (Note: Blanching times given are for 5,000 feet or higher. At altitudes below 5000 feet, subtract one minute from times given.)
VegetablePreparation
asparagus

Asparagus

Select young, tender stalks with compact tips. Remove or break off tough ends and scales. Wash thoroughly. Sort for size. Cut to fit containers or in 2-inch lengths. Blanch medium stalks 4 minutes in boiling water, 5 minutes in steam. Blanch large stalks 5 minutes in boiling water, 6 minutes in steam. Cool and drain dry. Pack without head space, alternating tips and stem ends of spears.

green-beans

Green beans

Select young, tender string less beans. Wash thoroughly, remove ends, sort for size. Cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces, leave whole, or slice into lengthwise strips. Water blanch 4 minutes. Chill and drain. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

lima-beans

Lima beans

Select well-filled pods containing green beans. Wash, shell and sort. Water blanch 3-5 minutes, depending on size. Cool and drain dry. Tray pack or dry pack with head space.

soy-beans

Soy beans

Select firm, well-filled, bright green pods. Wash. Water blanch 6 minutes. Cool and drain. Squeeze soybeans out of pods. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

beets

Beets

Select beets 3 inches in diameter or less. Wash, sort for size. Remove tops, leaving 1/2-inch stems. Cook in boiling water until tender: 25-30 minutes for small beets, 45-50 minutes for medium-sized beets. Cool and drain, peel, slice or cube. Dry pack with head space.

broccoli

Broccoli

Select tender, dark green stalks. Wash, peel and trim stalks. To remove insects from heads, soak 30 minutes in a solution of 4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water. Rinse and drain. Split lengthwise into pieces not more than 1 1/2 inches across. Blanch in steam 6 minutes or boiling water 4 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry or tray pack without head space.

brussel-sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Select green, firm, compact heads. Wash, trim. Soak in salt solution (see broccoli) 30 minutes to drive out insects. Rinse and drain. Water blanch 4-6 minutes depending on size of head. Cool and drain. Dry pack without head space.

cabbage

Cabbage

Wash. Trim coarse outer leaves of solid heads. Cut heads into medium or coarse shreds, thin wedges or separate into leaves. Water blanch 2 1/2 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space.

carrots

Carrots

Select tender, mild-flavored carrots. Remove tops, wash and peel. Leave whole if small, dice or slice larger carrots 1/4-inch thick. Water blanch whole carrots 6 minutes, diced or sliced carrots 3 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space.

cauliflower

Cauliflower

Choose firm, tender, snow-white heads. Break or cut into pieces 1 inch across. Wash well. Soak 1/2 hour in salt solution (see broccoli) if needed to drive out insects. Rinse and drain. Blanch 4 minutes in boiling water containing 4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water. Cool and drain. Dry pack without head space.

cut-corn

Corn, cut

Husk, remove silk, trim ends and wash. Water blanch 5 minutes. Cool and drain. Cut kernels from cob. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

corn-on-cob

Corn on the cob

Husk, remove silk, wash, and sort for size. Water blanch small ears 8 minutes, medium ears 10 minutes and large ears 12 minutes. Cool and drain. Pack in plastic freezer bags without head space.

eggplant

Eggplant

Peel, cut into slices 1/3-inch thick. To preserve color, drop pieces into a solution of 4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water. Water blanch 5 minutes in the same proportions of salt and water. Cool and drain. Tray pack or dry pack in layers separated by sheets of locker paper.

greens

Greens

Wash young, tender leaves well. Remove tough stems and imperfect parts. Cut in pieces, if desired. Water blanch tender spinach leaves 2 1/2 minutes; beet greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip and mature spinach leaves 3 minutes; and collard greens 4 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space.

herbs

Herbs

Wash, drain, trim or chop. Tray freeze. Use in cooked dishes, as product becomes limp when thawed.

mushroom

Mushrooms

Select mushrooms free of spots or decay. Sort for size. Wash and drain. Trim off ends of stems. Slice or quarter mushrooms larger than 1 inch across. Dip mushrooms to be steam blanched for 5 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid per pint of water. Steam whole mushrooms 6 minutes, quarters or slices 4-4 1/2 minutes. Cool and drain. Mushrooms also may be lightly sauteed in butter or margarine and cooled. Dry pack with head space.

onions

Onions

Wash, peel and chop fully mature onions. Water blanch 2 1/2 minutes, cool and drain. Also may freeze without blanching. Tray pack or dry pack with head space. Use in cooked products. Will keep 3-6 months.

green-peas

Green peas

Select bright green, plump, firm pods with sweet, tender peas. Shell. Water blanch 2 1/2 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space.

Sugar or snow pod peas

Wash, remove stems, blossom end and any strings. Leave whole. Water blanch 3 1/2 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

green-pepper

Green sweet peppers

Select firm, crisp, thick-walled peppers. Wash, cut out stems. Cut in half, remove seeds. Cut into strips or rings, if desired. Water blanch halves 4 minutes, slices 3 minutes for tighter packing and use in cooked dishes. Cool and drain. Freeze without blanching for use in salads and as garnishes. Dry pack blanched peppers with head space. Tray or dry pack unblanched peppers without head space.

hot-peppers

Hot peppers for condiment

Wash and stem peppers. Dry or tray pack in small containers without head space.

chilli-peppers

Chili peppers

Wash. Make a small slit in the side for steam to escape. Heat in 400-450 F oven 6-8 minutes or until skins blister. Cool in ice water for a crisp product. For a more thoroughly cooked product, wrap in a hot damp towel and allow to steam 15 minutes. Freeze without peeling or slit side, peel off skin and remove stem, seeds, membranes. Flatten to remove air, fold in half. Dry pack with waxed paper between single layers leaving head space, or tray pack.

pimientos

Pimentos

Wash, roast in oven at 400 F for 3-4 minutes. Rinse in cold water to remove charred skins. Drain. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

potatoes

Potatoes

Wash and peel, remove eyes, bruises, green spots. Cut in 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes. Water blanch 4-6 minutes. Cool and dry pack with 1/2-inch head space, or tray pack. For hash browns, cook in jackets until almost done. Peel and grate. Form in desired shapes. Pack and freeze. For French fries, peel and cut in thin strips. Rinse and dry. Fry in fat heated to 360 F for 4 minutes or until golden. Drain and cool. Dry pack with head space, or tray pack.

squash

Pumpkins and winter squash

Wash, cut into pieces and remove seeds. Cook pieces until soft in boiling water, steam, microwave oven, pressure cooker or 350-400 F oven (cut side down). Cool. Scoop out pulp, mash, blend or put through sieve. Chill thoroughly. Pack with head space.

rutabagas

Rutabagas

Cut off tops of young, medium-sized rutabagas, wash and peel. Cut into cubes and water blanch 3 minutes. Cool, drain and dry pack with 1/2-inch head space, or tray pack. For mashed rutabagas, cut into chunks and cook until tender in boiling water. Drain, mash, cool thoroughly and pack in containers with head space.

 

zucchini

Squash (zucchini, yellow, white scallop)

Select young squash with small seeds and tender rind. Wash, cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 4 minutes. Cool summer and drain. Dry pack with head space.

sweet-potatoe

Sweet potatoes

Select medium to large mature sweet potatoes that have been air-dried (cured). Sort for size, wash. Cook until almost tender in water, steam, pressure cooker or oven. Cool at room temperature. Peel, cut in halves, slice, or mash. To prevent darkening, dip halves or slices in solution of either 1 tablespoon citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice per quart of water for 5 minutes. For mashed sweet potatoes, mix 2 tablespoons orange or lemon juice with each quart. Dry pack with head space.

tomato

Tomatoes, juice

Wash, sort and trim firm tomatoes. Cut in quarters or eights. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Press through sieve. Season with 1 teaspoon salt per quart of juice, if desired. Pour into containers, leaving 1 1/2-inch head space.

Tomatoes, stewed

Wash ripe, blemish-free tomatoes. Scald 2-3 minutes to loosen skins, peel and core. Cut into pieces and freeze or simmer 10-20 minutes until tender. Cool and dry pack with 1/2-inch head space.

turnip

Turnips, parsnips

Select tender, firm, mild-flavored small to medium turnips or parsnips. Wash, peel, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool and drain. Dry pack with head space.

Source: Colorado State University,Fact sheet No.9.330

Photo credit: Frozen Fruits by Mike Haufe