When out picking up supplies and ingredients for your next pie baking venture, which do you prefer? Fresh or frozen fruit? Is one better than the other? Do you have a preference? Which one has worked better for you in the past? Here are some facts that may or may not sway you one way or the other.
I know in discussing recipes with my mother, that she often tells me she uses frozen fruit for many of her dishes. I had never used frozen fruit, always believing that picking my fruits from the grocery produce shelves was always the ‘fresher’ choice. Plus the fact that I love walking through the grocery aisles, looking at and taking in the fine aromas of all those wonderful and colorful fruits of all shapes and sizes. Mom used to tell me that the frozen ones were better. I balked, and stood my ground. Nonsense! Items in the freezer lose their flavor and are bland I stammered! Little did I realize…
Pros – Frozen fruits and veggies are even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets, according to Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, Texas. And why is this? Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when, as a general rule, they are most nutrient-packed.
While the first step of freezing vegetables—blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and arrest the action of food-degrading enzymes—causes some water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins to break down or leach out, the subsequent flash-freeze locks the produce in a relatively nutrient-rich state. In effect ‘freezing’ any change or degradation.
Cons – On the downside, frozen fruits sometimes contain added sugar, which means they won’t be as healthy as their unadulterated, fresh counterparts.
Pros – Freshly-picked fruits straight from the farm or even your own garden are of the highest quality and should be your first choice, even over frozen.
Cons – Fruits and vegetables destined to be shipped to fresh-produce aisles around the country typically are picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Outward signs of ripening may still occur, but these fruits and vegetables will never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine (as FREEZING allows). In addition, during the long haul from farm to fork, fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to lots of heat and light, which degrade some nutrients, especially delicate vitamins like C and the B vitamin thiamin.
Also note, that produce bought from the supermarket is full of color and crunch, with many stores even using fine mist sprays to give a ‘just picked’ look. This is referred to as ‘supermarket theater’ that helps convince shoppers to pay a premium for food they believe is not only better than frozen but tastier and full of flavor. The reality is however, that these fruits may well have been held in storage for weeks maybe, before even being situated in the grocer produce section.
SOME GOOD RULES OF THUMB
When fruits are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe, preferably straight from the farm (farmer’s market, perhaps) or pick from your own garden (or a neighbor’s backyard fruit tree…JUST KIDDING! Get permission first, of course)
Off-season? Frozen fruits will give you a higher concentration of nutrients and will most likely be even fresher and tastier than those you find on grocery shelves.
Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color
Bake and eat soon after purchase.
GOT ANYTHING TO ADD?
What has worked for you? Everyone has a preference or another ‘side’ to the fresh or frozen debate. Nothing is written in stone and I would love to hear what everyone else typically uses and why?