Fresh and frozen are two words that normally aren’t put together when it comes to classifying food. Most look down the frozen aisle and see a sea of processed foods. However this winter, look to the frozen aisle for some of those out-of-season fruits and vegetables. Forget the bad rap or the cardboard boxes of your youth filled with cooked spinach. Those days are over and today the frozen aisle can offer many benefits when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season.
Here are few key tips to stocking up your freezer this winter:
Picked at Peak. Unlike many of the fruits and vegetables in the produce section that are picked well before ripe then shipped to market, frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak. Doing this also ensures that the fruits and vegetables are full of the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Freezing them keeps them at his peak level until thawed again.
What You See is What You Get. Often the fresh produce is injected with additives to preserve the food while shipping, or gassed to help hold the freshness during transport. Frozen fruits and vegetables are most of the time still in their pure state with nothing added. Be sure to check the label before buying frozen to ensure the only thing in your frozen blueberries is blueberries— some frozen fruit and veggies have additives or sugar. Some of my favorite brands are Stahlbush (comes from sustainable farming practices), Cascadian Farms (organic fruits) and Woodstock Farms.
Nutrients. Frozen food is often as nutritious or more nutritious than its fresh counterparts (depending on transit distances). Frozen foods lock in those nutrients and keep them in the plant until you are ready to consume them, whereas fresh fruit and vegetables can lose nutrients as they sit in the refrigerator.
Quick & Easy. The major benefit of frozen fruits and vegetables is they are easy. Most of the time they are already cut, peeled and ready for you to cook with. You can easily make a stir-fry or smoothie in minutes. You can warm up a little quinoa and have some frozen blueberries on it, giving the dish a fresh light flavor even as it blizzards outside.
Make Your Own Frozen Fruit. If you are good at planning ahead, the best time to prep for the winter is in the summer and fall— especially if you like berries! Many growers have pick-your-own days in the summer and fall and allow for you to pick a lot of berries at a low cost. After a picking day, clean the fruit, cut it up and place it on cookie sheets in the freezer. Once the fruit is frozen, put it in freezer bags and stock up on the freshest frozen fruit around. This takes a lot more prep but is satisfying in the winter when you pull out some frozen strawberries still bursting with as much flavor as if they were picked off that morning.
That’s the dirt this week to keep you happy and healthy this winter season. Look next week for our article how to make quinoa part of your breakfast meal plan and start your day with a punch of protein!