Try frozen vegetables during winter months. Thanks to commercial greenhouses and global imports, produce bins stay stacked with veggies even in the off-season. Sometimes, however, they lose a lot of nutrition along the way.
“Frozen vegetables might actually have a leg up on fresh veggies, depending on how they were handled, stored and prepared,” says registered dietitian Susan Moores, a nutrition consultant in St. Paul, Minn.
Frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness, meaning they’re also at their nutritional peak. They’re blanched and flash-frozen to maintain taste and quality. On the other hand, fresh veggies may be picked before they’re fully ripened, and in the winter frequently travel long distances to get to your supermarket, both of which may affect nutrition quality.
In the store, look for bags in which you can feel the individual vegetables. A bag that feels like a block of ice has been thawed and refrozen; it’s safe to eat, but it may not taste very good. To keep frozen vegetables at home, place them in a 0-degree freezer with good air circulation, and they’ll last six months to a year. Just take what you need and tightly rewrap the rest or enclose in a resealable freezer bag to prevent thawing and refreezing.
For best taste, don’t overcook. “Use the shortest cooking time when you steam or microwave and the least amount of water for better taste,” Moores says. “You’ll keep more B and C vitamins, which are susceptible to breaking down when heated.”
Give Life to Frozen Vegetables
Nutrition expert Martin Frei, who is a chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., often cooks with frozen vegetables, but likes to add some flavor boosters. Here are his suggestions:
Sauté onions with a bit of ginger, add carrots and sprinkle in dill. A splash of orange juice adds some zip.
Frozen Green Beans:
Sauté onions, add beans and fresh thyme.
Add sautéed shallots and mushrooms.
Mix in sautéed walnuts or pecans.
Get creative, and come up with your own add-ins to enjoy the bounty of veggies from the grocery freezer section all winter long.