Everybody knows that fresh, straight from the garden foods taste best, but what about the nutritional value of fresh fruits and vegetables when compared to frozen? Let’s examine the differences between fresh vs. frozen foods to see if it’s worthwhile to freeze seasonal foods to use in the off-season.
The Truth About Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
In the winter, fresh fruits and vegetable are both expensive and limited at the local supermarket. And because they have to be shipped from warm areas of the country or from Mexico or other parts of South America, they just don’t taste as good as in-season, local fruits and veggies. Consider the classic winter “cardboard” texture of a tomato. Or what about strawberries shipped across country from California to the East Coast? They’re hard, not as sweet, and not nearly as tasty as farm-fresh local strawberries. That’s because they’re usually picked before they’re fully ripened, so that they won’t be over-ripe by the time they reach a store’s produce department. They’re also subjected to heat and light during their journey, which robs them of even more nutrition. The alternative, of course, is to buy their frozen counterparts. But are we sacrificing nutrients when we eat frozen? Far from it, say experts. In fact, you’re better off eating frozen fruits and vegetables in the winter rather than fresh ones that are shipped from areas with extra-long or year-round growing seasons. Frozen fruits and vegetables actually have more of their nutrients intact because they’re usually frozen at the peak of ripeness, which is when most nutrient-packed.
Why Not Freeze Your Own?
Why not, indeed! It’s a great idea to freeze local fruits and vegetables at their peak of ripeness. Not only are they cheaper when in season and loaded with their full spectrum of nutrients, they’re also available in abundance from local farm stands or farmer’s markets. All that’s required for most vegetables is a quick dip in boiling water (blanching). While blanching does break down some water-soluble vitamins like C and some of the B vitamins, a quick freeze “locks” them in a relatively nutrient-rich state. You can freeze a variety of fruits and vegetable such as
- corn (remove kernels from the cob first)
- green and wax beans
- zucchini and summer squash
- Brussels sprouts
- fresh herbs
- all types of berries
and really, almost anything else you can think of!
Freezing Fruit: How-Tos and Tips
It ‘s easy to just dump berries and other fruits into freezer bags, label them and toss them into the freezer, but they won’t be so easy to use, especially if you just want a cup or two for a smoothie or a topping on cereal. A better way is to prepare the fruit as if you were going to use it immediately. Rinse your fruit under running water and lay it out to dry on a clean dish towel. Peel and slice or chop peaches, pears and other whole fruits. Leave berries whole, unless you prefer your strawberries sliced. Then, lay them out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper in a single layer and freeze. Once frozen (usually in about 4 hours), you can transfer them to freezer bags or other containers. Just be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing to prevent freezer burn.
To ensure that vegetables retain their color and texture through the freeze/thaw process, follow these 5 easy steps:
- Freeze at the peak of ripeness.
- Quickly blanch vegetables in boiling water to stunt their ripening enzymes.
- Chill in ice water until the temperature comes down.
- Pack tightly after spreading them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet (as you did with the fruit.
- Thaw and use within a year (preferably before next peak season!).
You’ll enjoy these frozen, healthy fruits and vegetables so much when the snow is flying and the pickings are scarce at the grocery store! By the way, don’t forget to use some of your frozen fruits and veggies to make delicious, vitamin-packed smoothies this winter. And be sure to add some UB Super Protein for an even more delicious, nutrient-packed drink!