The process of freezing fruit and vegetables isn’t as simple as dicing carrots, bagging them and throwing them in the freezer. All pre-packaged fruit and vegetables you get from the shops are snap frozen to retain their freshness. Snap freezing is very different from the normal process you might take when you use your commercial freezer. It’s the process of rapidly cooling fresh produce with dry ice or nitrogen as a way of preserving them for up to 12 months. By cooling products in such a short time frame, you preserve the level of nutrients and crisp freshness within the fruit or vegetable without them becoming soggy and limp when steamed.
The standard shelf life of different fruits and vegetables
Eating spoiled fruits and vegetables is not only unpleasant but it can also harm a customer’s health and wellbeing. To ensure you’re not putting your family members at risk, it’s important to know how long each fruit and vegetable variant lasts.
Below are lists of the standard shelf life of common fruit and vegetable variants:
How do you know when to throw out your frozen fruit and vegetables?
You arrive to work one day to find your fridge and freezer at room temperature and you begin the arduous process of sifting through the piles of partially defrosted food to find out what’s usable and what’s not. But, how do you know what to keep and what to chuck? A full freezer that’s been turned off will hold your food at a safe temperature for about 48 hours. Food that still contains ice crystals or has a core temperature of 4.5 degrees Celsius or below can still be refrozen safely.
But what if your freezer doesn’t fail and you just happen to have a significant amount of frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer that you’re not sure is suitable for your family? Scientifically speaking, foods will keep indefinitely in a frozen state and will never expire or go stale. That’s not to say it won’t keep its full flavour.
Fruit and vegetables that experience freezer burn from long periods in a cold and dry environment will inevitably dry out. Ice crystals that form over food draw the moisture out of frozen produce and with it a lot of its flavour. When it’s defrosted, it’s most likely safe to eat but will look limp and colourless and its flavour will be bland and unappetizing.
Common myths debunked
Myth 1: Freezing fruit and vegetables diminishes their nutrients
False: Though frozen food indeed loses some of its nutrients when you freeze it, it’s often more nutritious than the fruit and vegetables you can get your hands on in supermarkets. Pre-packaged frozen fruits and vegetables can contain more nutrients because it’s been harvested and snap-frozen at its peak freshness. Fresh fruit and veg need to be picked before it’s ripened so that it has a chance to ripen after travelling long distances to reach its destination.
Myth 2: All frozen fruit and vegetables are highly processed
False: As chefs and kitchen staff, it’s easy to put all snap frozen meals and produce in the same umbrella category of frozen food but there’s a world of difference between pizzas and peas. The development of technology, particularly over the last few years, has meant manufacturers can freeze virtually any food, from health-conscious ready-made meals to frozen squash and spinach without losing a lot of its freshness, nutrients and flavour. To ensure you’re getting a frozen product that meets the optimal health standards, always read the label carefully.
Myth 3: It’s defrosted, so you can’t freeze it again
False: As long as the fruit and vegetables that you’ve thawed out haven’t been left out on the bench for more than a couple of hours, there’s no problem with refreezing it. A quick tip is to thaw fruit and vegetables out in the fridge to avoid exposure to temperatures that promote bacterial growth. However, this general rule of thumb doesn’t apply to every food. Five foods you should avoid refreezing are raw and cooked proteins, ice cream, juice concentrates and combination meals.
Myth 4: All fruit and vegetables are freezer ready straight off the shelf
False: Just because they have natural compounds doesn’t mean they’re safe to freeze straight from the delivery box. Ziplock bags are not 100 per cent airtight and creating a passage through which air can pass opens up the risk of unfavourable bacteria and added moisture. If you don’t have access to pre-packaged snap-frozen alternatives, you can blanch vegetables before freezing and vacuum sealing. The boiling water changes an enzyme reaction to stop the food from breaking down and becoming soggy in the freezer.
Chefs are often faced with the challenge of deciding whether to go frozen or stay fresh when it comes to providing a range of fruits and vegetables in their beverage and meal options. Many chefs and kitchen attendees base their decisions off the reputation of frozen food. But before one takes the leap, it’s important to understand the risks and benefits of opting for convenience. Frozen food can be just as beneficial for you and your guests when managed properly. You can achieve the same flavour, level of nutrients and texture and fresh options, while still enjoying the benefits that come with its convenience.