What Happens After Harvesting
We all know that once a vegetable is harvested, it begins to release heat and lose water in a process called respiration. This natural process has an impact on the nutritional qualities of the vegetables we consume. However, the real culprit behind the loss in nutrition is the time between quality control, transportation, handling, and the moment our vegetables reach the shelf. Once they are ready to buy and on our kitchen tables, our products may have already lost half of the original amount of nutrients.
From Tree To Table
Fruits and vegetables are major sources of macronutrients, like fiber, and micronutrients, like Vitamin C. They are often at their most nutritious when they are harvested at peak maturity. However, most people do not have home gardens capable of providing the recommended 5-13 daily servings year round. This is where supermarkets and distribution come into play. Fruits and vegetables grown locally may spend up to 5 days in transit after harvest before arriving at the distribution center to be processed. For fruits and vegetables grown in other countries, this time varies from a few days if transported by air freight to several weeks if sent by refrigerated ship. Once at the store, your food may spend 1-3 days on display before being purchased by the customer, who then may store them up the 7 days before consumption. This amount of time from harvest to consumption can mean significant nutrient degradation.
The Argument For Freezing
Most fruits and vegetables are composed of 70–90% water. Once separated from their tree, plant, or vine, they undergo higher rates of respiration, resulting in moisture loss, quality and nutrient degradation, and potential microbial spoilage. This often depends on the particular nutrient, the commodity, and the postharvest handling, storage, and home cooking conditions. In an attempt to keep food fresh for longer, canning, freezing, pickling, dehydration, fermentation, and other methods of preservation are carried out. Their goal is to deliver processed products that are safe and retain desirable quality attributes similar to fresh products. Freezing is the most simple and natural way of preserving vegetables. In fact, studies show that frozen fruits and vegetables have just as many nutrients as fresh ones. Enzymes in fresh fruits and vegetables cause loss of color, flavor, and nutrients as soon as they are harvested. This reaction can be stopped when food is frozen. Freezing deactivates the enzymes responsible and locks in nutrients inside the vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are able to keep the same amount of nutrients for a longer period of time.
Freezing and Vitamin C
Still not convinced? Take into account Vitamin C. Both water-soluble and sensitive to heat, light, and oxygen, Vitamin C is susceptible to loss during home cooking and thermal processing. This makes perfect as an index of nutrient degradation. When fresh products undergo minimal storage and are handled at proper temperatures, they have high amounts of vitamin C. However, after harvest, this vitamin quickly degrades. This continues during storage as Vitamin c losses in vegetables stored at4°C for 7 days range from 15% for green peas to 77% for green beans. However, if these products were frozen, then their Vitamin C loss would be lower. Influenced by the particular commodity along with the blanching and freezing conditions, frozen fruit and vegetables were found to have little nutrient change if storage temperature was well maintained.
The most popular freezing method for vegetables worldwide is the IQF freezing method. With the growing demand for frozen foods, consumers have become more particular about the quality of the frozen food they buy. They not only want the frozen items to retain all their nutrients, but they also want the natural appearance, taste, texture, color, and shape of the products to be preserved as well. The way you treat your products is critical to the quality and safety of each finished product. Choosing the right industrial refrigeration equipment streamlines your process for higher quality, healthier products.Processing and preserving vegetables properly is essential to creating delicious, fresh, and safe products for your customers. From spinach processing to vegetable product freezing, you can look to AFE for a wide variety of freezer and cooler products to meet your specific commercial cooling needs. As for fruit and products created with fruit, they can be very delicate. Without proper processing, these products spoil rapidly or can become contaminated. Look to us for a wide variety of exceptional quality equipment to keep your fruit and fruit products cool during processing, or frozen after creation. From space-saving design to site-built equipment for higher product needs, we can help you find the equipment that is right for your needs.