Friday, January 6, 2012

It's not that fresh

Not as fresh as you'd think.
I've been hearing a lot of lectures lately about how we should be cooking and eating "fresh, healthy food."  Food seems to be a big flashpoint these days--it's a great way for people to indulge in a moral panic about the way other people live.  And the end result is that I talk to a fair number of people who think they're terrible failures or bad parents or bad people and lazy cooks because they don't get boxes of fresh vegetables and make gourmet meals.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: While I enjoy cooking, when it's just for me it's kind of a chore.  And if I had to do it for my family everyday, I would not be delirious with joy.  I would also not be a regular fixture at the supermarket.

Now, I'm not one to exhort people to join CSA's and grow their own--CSA's can be pricey for many people, and it's not as if growing things is an easy endeavor (or something that all people can or want to do).  I love my CSA, I plan on doing it again (and seriously, would work a second job if it was too pricey for me), but we all need to keep in mind that there are ways to eat better without eating "fresh."

I like to get frozen vegetables.  I've got a chest freezer that I make good use of--and I get the bags (not boxes) of frozen vegetables.  It's easy to reach for a bag of say, frozen spinach, take out a cup of the stuff, and wrap a twist-tie around the remaining bag and place it back in the freezer.  You can get all kinds of things frozen--corn, string beans, diced onion (which is a Godsend for me, as I despise chopping them), collards, okra, beet greens, sliced or diced peppers, broccoli, zucchini, you name it.  I actually prefer most vegetables frozen, not canned (with the exception of tomatoes, beets, beans, and anything pickled).  Canned leafy vegetables are . . .well, the canning process does not do them justice.  Also, it's easier to parcel out what you need from say, a bag of frozen spinach than a can of spinach.

No, you will not be able to make a salad.  But you can throw a half-cup of a few varieties into an improvised soup you're making, or into a skillet meal.  You can add them to stews and chili you make (in fact, I like adding the frozen sliced red, green, and yellow peppers to chili).  But them into a casserole or quiche you want to make, or a frittata if you make them.  You get the idea.

This saves a lot of time, work and anxiety.  You won't spend time and energy washing and chopping "fresh" vegetables that were trucked in from across the country (or from another country).  You won't have to worry about using this up before it goes bad and then beat yourself up when you find it forgotten and moldy in the fridge. 

Granted, you have to use the frozen stuff you have.  You don't want to stick bags of frozen vegetables in the freezer and forget they're there.  But it's easier to reach in and take what you need for a quick meal you want to throw together.

Also--frozen vegetables tend to be fresher.  They're picked and frozen when they're ripe (not when they're underripe so they'll ripen on the trip, like the "fresh" vegetables we get in the grocery store).  They aren't loaded with salt like their commercially canned counterparts.  And they're pretty convenient.  They're easy to use when you need to throw something together, and contrary to what a lot of foodies would have you think, there's nothing at all wrong with throwing a meal together. 


  1. I don't have any problem with frozen food. It is, as you say, picked when ripe and the nutrients stay in the food. I don't like canned food really though. There is far too much salt, and often sugar, added.

  2. Truthfully, I'm not a fan of frozen veggies at all, but I do believe they're healthy for you and are definitely convenient! I eat 99.9% of my veggies fresh... But will use canned when I make soup.

  3. I agree. Frozen is a convenient way to go, especially if you like an assortment. I love fresh veggies, but as I live alone, a head of say...kale makes a bucketload, and it will often spoil before I can finish it.

    I stay away from canned veggies for the most part, 'tho I AM partial to canned greens, although I agree that the nutrients have been largely removed. I just made a faux-jambalaya (vegetarian) with a huge can of collard greens that were pennies per can on the reduced rack.

    Oh, the other thing canned veggies are good for: when I lost power for three days in that storm in October. I was very thankful to have a few cans in my larder.

  4. Steve, that is true about the canned stuff--it is much more convenient, espeically if there's a power outage. I think that's why I do use the pressure canner for many things such as stocks, etc. It frees up freezer space and it's always available even if the power's out (and won't melt/go bad if the power's out for a long time).

    As you said, Byallen, the commercially canned stuff has way too much salt and sugar added, so I tend to avoid it. Also, I'm just not a fan of canned greens, homecanned or otherwise, though if you're going to have them canned, homecanned is the way to go as you can control the amount of salt you add in.

    I got so many fresh vegetables from my CSA this year that the stuff I knew I wouldn't eat/get to I'd can or freeze. I canned the beets after getting them three weeks in a row. I froze the greens like the beet greens and the kale (though I made sure to tear the leaves away from the stems/ribs as those are very tough).

    Carla, I can't blame you for enjoying fresh vegetables more! When I can get them locally, I go the fresh route myself.

  5. The CSA here wants 3 payments of just a little bit over $200 to pay for the CSA this year. They wanted the first payment before Christmas, so I declined. I think it's just too much money and can get a whole lot of frozen vegetables for that price. I just don't think "fresh, healthy food" is the best use of my resources for me and my limited income at this time. Now if I ever win the

  6. Belinda, you're right, it is pricey! It's a big reason why I don't advise people to go that route if they're trying to save money--I do it because I really like the produce I get and I'd be willing to work a second job to continue getting it! (It also helps that seven months out of the year, I almost never have to go to the grocery store.) But before the CSA, I did just fine. :)