On Cooking: Convenience frozen into food

Every trip to the supermarket involves choices between food price, health, and convenience.

Most people tend to believe that fresh is always the best option, and in many cases it is – but what about frozen vegetables?

Studies have shown that most frozen vegetables are just as nourishing as fresh. Other than a quick blanching process to kill bacteria, they are virtually unprocessed, and flash frozen.

They are by far a better product than most people think.

Unless fresh goods are harvested locally, they must travel great distances to your produce section. That usually means they are harvested before fully ripe, in hopes they’ll be at their peak by the time they are purchased.

Full ripening on the tree or vine before harvesting also always produces a far more healthful product. If you live in a farming area where fresh local produce is available, then by all means, buy fresh.

Otherwise, frozen is a viable option.

For many households frozen food is more convenient for busy lifestyles: cutting, washing, and in some cases peeling has already been done for them.

The chance of food spoilage is also greatly reduced, unless it is forgotten in the freezer for a long time.

Most frozen vegetables are recommended for storage up to six months. They are not immediately bad or freezer burned at that point, but should be used up sooner rather than later for optimal results.

I am not suggesting buying frozen when it comes to imported fruits or vegetables, but merely that there are other healthy and convenient options to fresh, when applicable.

One last note: always read the labels on all packaged foods to ensure that you are aware of any added ingredients that may be present.

Dear Chef Dez,

Whenever I buy a bag of frozen peas or corn, they are nicely individual, but after say 1-1/2 weeks in my freezer, they are turned into one big, hard lump. Any suggestions?

Barbara T., Maple Ridge

Dear Barbara,

That usually happens because the frozen vegetables partially thaw, waters collects on the vegetables, and then when they get put back in the freezer, they clump because the newly formed moisture freezes everything together.

This can start happening even from the time you place them in your shopping cart, while you wait at the till, get them in your car, travel home, and then finally make it into the freezer. Even in this time frame, the vegetables become partly thawed and will cause this clumping.

The only thing I can suggest is to make sure you do the following:

• Shop for frozen foods last when making your grocery store trip.

• Keep frozen foods together in your cart/bags to help keep them cold.

• Get them immediately into the freezer when you get home.

It is hard to always keep this clumping from happening at all, but the only other thing to suggest is to bring a cooler with ice packs with you in your car, and as soon as you leave the grocery store place them in the cooler for the trip home.

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