Studies by the Institute of Food Research and the Food and Drug Administration have shown that produce can lose up to 45% of its essential nutrients during the journey from farm to table—a period that can last as long as 16 days. These berries, melons, tomatoes, and greens can be exposed to pesticides, extreme heat, and light during transport, further compromising their freshness and nutritional value.
By contrast, most frozen fruits and vegetables are promptly blanched, boiled, or steamed and then frozen within hours of being picked, a process that helps lock in both fresh taste and nutritional value. Frozen produce is also available year-round and in most cases is cheaper than fresh. It’s high time, then, to make yourself knowledgable with the points below and stock your freezer with the under-appreciated nutritional powerhouses found in the following slides.
How Fresh is Fresh?
- Carrots: 9-10 days from farm to table,10% of nutrients lost
- Peas: 8-10 days from farm to table, 15% of nutrients lost
- Broccoli & Cauliflower: 6-16 days from farm to table, 25% of nutrients lost
- Green Beans: 11-15 days from farm to table, 45% of nutrients lost
Source: Institute of Food Research
How Long Can You Freeze Something?
“Food is safe in the freezer almost indefinitely, but its quality will decrease over time,” says Kathy Bernard, technical information specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A few ballpark figures to keep in mind: Frozen hamburgers should be used within three to four months, cooked leftovers are good up to six months, and frozen steaks and whole chicken or turkey can last up to a year. Food hoarders, rejoice!
What About Defrosting?
You have three safe options for thawing food: in the fridge, in cold water, or in the microwave. “It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator,” Bernard says. Just chuck the frozen food in and wait until it’s soft. “Small items usually thaw overnight; larger foods may require a day or two. And especially large items like turkeys may take longer, approximately one day for every five pounds of weight,” she says. “If you don’t like to use the microwave for faster thawing, your best bet is the cold-water method.” Place food in a leakproof plastic bag and float it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold, and after thawing, cook immediately. If you’re defrosting food in the microwave, cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving, Bernard says.