Fresh produce, frozen or canned? When I advocate buying frozen produce, I sometimes take a little flak from people who insist that fresh is better. But there’s a lot of evidence that frozen produce may be healthier because it’s picked when ripe and flash-frozen. In contrast, a lot of fresh produce is picked before it is ripe so that it can ripen in transport. I’ve also read that canned tomatoes pack more nutrients than most fresh tomatoes, because again, they were picked when they were ripe. Store-bought fresh tomatoes are picked when they’re green – it’s easier to transport them without bruising before they are ripe. Later, they’re ripened quickly with ethylene gas. The more time vegetables spend on the vine, the more nutrients they pack. (Plus, there are a lot of coupons for frozen and canned produce.)
For green, leafy vegetables like bagged salads and spinach, you’re better off picking bags that are from the front of the case, not the back. We are sometimes inclined to dig to the back of the shelf and find the freshest bag, but the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the bags at the front had higher levels of nutrients, folate and Vitamin C because the plants’ photosynthesis was continuing in-store under the lights.
I try not to waste food, and I’ve read a lot of statistics on how much food Americans throw away each year – anywhere from 30 to 40 percent, which I find kind of shocking. Just over the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with produce storage containers that breathe and prolong the life of tomatoes, onions and other vegetables that you might only use a portion of at a time. Sadly, my previous routine was to wrap the cut vegetable in plastic wrap or a plastic bag, which usually leads to soggy, less than fresh produce – which eventually gets thrown away. I’ve learned that storing things properly makes a big difference.