ON COOKING: Don’t freeze out this key food option, says Chef Dez

Frozen produce offer convenience and has been shown to retain nutritional value compared to fresh

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.

by Chef Dez

During every trip to the supermarket, we must make choices between the price, health, and convenience aspects of the foods we buy. Most people tend to believe that fresh is always the best option, and in many cases it is, but what about frozen vegetables? Are they just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts?

Studies have shown that most frozen vegetables are just as nourishing. Other than a quick blanching process to kill any bacteria, they are virtually unprocessed and flash frozen to preserve freshness. By staying frozen from shortly after harvesting until the time they reach your kitchen, they are by far a better product than most people think.

Unless fresh goods are harvested locally, they must travel great distances in order to be available to you in the produce section. This usually means that they are harvested before full ripeness occurs in hopes of them being at their peak by the time they arrive for one to purchase. This timely arrival is not always the case however, and you may be left with a more inferior product than if you were to get it direct from the farm. Full ripening on the tree/vine before harvesting also always produces a far more healthful product.

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This being said, if you live in a farming area where fresh local produce is available then by all means buy fresh, otherwise frozen is another viable option. For many households frozen is far more convenient for their busy lifestyles: cutting, washing, and in some cases the peeling has already been done for them. The chance of food spoilage is also greatly reduced, unless it is forgotten about in the freezer for long periods of time. Most frozen vegetables are recommended to be stored in the freezer for up to six months. They are not immediately bad, or freezer burnt in the seventh month, but should be used up sooner rather than later for optimal results.

I am not by any means suggesting that one should always buy 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 is to always read the labels on all packaged foods to ensure that you are aware of any added ingredients that may be present.

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Dear Chef Dez:,

Whenever I buy a bag of either frozen peas or frozen 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:

This usually happens because the frozen vegetables partially thaw, water collects on the vegetables, and then when they get put back in the freezer they clump together 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 bring a cooler with ice packs with you in your car and as soon as you leave the grocery store place them in this cooler for the trip home.

.

– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4


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