Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Northern Dilemma: Produce in Winter

Each year I struggle with the availability of fresh produce in the winter months and this year is no different. It is a dilemma that I haven't been able to overcome since moving to the Upper Midwest six years ago. Most of the produce that is available this time of year is picked too soon and shipped from very distant places. Thus, leaving the quality of the produce less to be desired...bland, bruised, lacking vitamins/minerals and tasteless, with the exception of the Minneola tangelos that are coming from California -- they arrived here in December and January and are so delicious!

Frozen  Veggies and Fruit

Believe it or not, some frozen vegetables and fruits can be more nutritious than fresh produce especially in the winter months.  Vegetables and fruits that are picked for freezing are processed when they are most nutrient dense -- their peak ripeness.  

When choosing frozen vegetables and fruit, there is a quality difference between different brands and products.  The differences in quality can influence taste, texture and appearance.  Which means if you are not a big vegetable eater, you always want to make sure that you are buying "U.S. Grade A" or "Fancy" because those are the vegetables/fruits that "are carefully selected for color, tenderness and freedom from blemishes".  Other grades such as B or C are not as high of quality and Grade C are ideal for soups, stews and casseroles.  

Organic vegetables/fruits are available frozen. Personally, I am a big fan of Trader Joe's  frozen vegetables and fruits.  Hands down, they offer the most variety of mixes and always with high quality ingredients.  

When choosing canned fruits, it is best to keep with those products that are simply just the fruit and either juice or water.  A lot of companies add high fructose sugar to canned fruits, which really isn't necessary.  Some fruits are sold in light syrup or heavy syrup.  Heavy syrup fruits are ideal for baking and quite sweet to eat for your fruit serving. 

Some easy tips for produce consumption in the winter months:
  • Keep 3-5 packages of frozen vegetables/fruits "in stock" at all times (you will never run out)
  • Frozen vegetables can be made in the microwave (5 minutes on high) or sauteed with some seasoning and olive on the stove top (5 minutes)
  • Frozen fruits taste great pureed with milk and ice -- smoothie
  • Choose frozen vegetables over canned for greater nutrient content
  • Both Grade A and Grade B frozen vegetables would taste good, Grade A is a higher quality
  • Keep 3-5 cans of canned fruit "in stock" at all times
  • Read the labels for canned fruit and avoid products with added high fructose corn syrup
  • If you accidently purchased fruit in heavy syrup, you can always rinse the syrup off
  • Cooking frozen vegetables on the stove retains more heat in the vegetable than microwave cooking.  Microwaved vegetables can lose their heat very quickly, thus leaving the vegetable tasting pretty bad
  • Experiment with different seasonings for vegetables.  Visit Penzeys spices either in the store or online, they have some excellent seasonings for veggies

1 comment:

familyfeedingdynamics said...

I love this info. Thanks! There is such a push for "fresh" and "organic" that we forget about the benefits of frozen and canned. I have parents who can't afford fresh or organic and I think feel defeated and guilty giving canned or frozen to their kids. No need! I love frozen peas and canned corn, and my husband loves canned green beans. It reminds him of his childhood...