Are you wondering why the pre-packaged frozen vegetables you buy at the supermarket taste better than the frozen vegetables you make at home from leftovers or vegetables in your refrigerator? This concern is a pretty common question, so we thought we would provide you with an explanation!
“Homemade” Frozen Vegetables
In the case of fresh vegetables, after harvesting, vegetables are transported by trucks, trains, and ships to a distribution center and then are moved to your local grocery store. If you’re shopping at a local farmer’s market, your veggies were probably picked within the past 24 to 48 hours (you can always ask the farmer at the stand). However, if you’re shopping in a large chain supermarket, those “fresh” vegetables could have been harvested up to two weeks prior.
This delay in time from harvest to store or farm stand holds true for both conventional veggies and those labeled organic. For every day that passes between harvesting and eating, the vegetable deteriorates in taste, nutritional value, and overall texture. If you buy a vegetable at the supermarket, and then keep it in your home refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze it to keep from going bad, you’re now dealing with an “old” vegetable. A 3+ week old red pepper that you decided to freeze isn’t going to taste as good as one frozen within a day of being harvested.
When it comes to freezing vegetables you’ve purchased at a supermarket, a key determining factor when it comes to flavor is the age of the produce.
Store-Bought Frozen Vegetables
In contrast, vegetables that are destined to be frozen are harvested and then immediately steam blanched. This quick exposure to high heat stops the enzymes responsible for deterioration and kills off any unhealthy microorganisms.
Immediately after blanching, the veggies are flash-frozen. As all of this happens very quickly, often on the same day, and it ensures the vegetables are being preserved at their peak of taste and nutritional value.
Commercial Flash Freezing Guarantees Better Taste & Texture
If you have a home vegetable garden and freeze some of your harvests in your home freezer immediately after picking them , the taste will certainly be better, but the texture will not be the same as when commercial flash-frozen techniques are used. Also called cryogenic freezing, frozen vegetable producers like Tommy’s Superfoods use the quickest freezing technology available as the vegetables are immersed in −320 °F temperatures. This rapid, almost instantaneous freezing generates the smallest ice crystals and ensures that the vegetable maintains its cellular structure.
The speed at which the vegetables are frozen directly impacts the size and number of ice crystals that form in the vegetable’s cells.
Slow freezing, also called ventilated mechanical freezing, which is what happens when you freeze something at home, leads to larger ice crystals. Large ice crystals puncture the vegetable’s cell walls and cause the texture to toughen. The damage caused by the ice crystals negatively impacts how the vegetable feels in your mouth, how it tastes, and what it can be used for. A tougher texture might not be so noticeable if you’ve chopped, blanched and frozen kale for use in soups and stews, but if you’re looking for tender, flavorful asparagus to complement your salmon or chicken dinner your home-frozen variety may leave you a little disappointed.
Homemade vs Store-bought Frozen Vegetables: Packaging & Storage Matters
Also, how frozen vegetables are packaged and stored can also negatively impact taste and texture. Homemade frozen vegetables that aren’t packed in airtight containers can develop “freezer burn” which turns even tender vegetables into something tough and chewy. Freezer burn won’t impact the nutritional value of the food, but it will leech out moisture and flavor.
Deciding Between Homemade and Store-Bought Frozen Vegetables
Here at Tommy’s, we believe reducing food waste is very important to environmental sustainability. Because of that, we encourage our customers to freeze produce from their garden or the supermarket if they’re worried that it will go bad before they can eat it. This helps to reduce the amount of food sent to the landfill.
However, it’s important to remember that homemade frozen food will have a different taste and texture, and must be incorporated into meals differently. Whereas commercially produced, flash-frozen vegetable mixtures, such as Tommy’s Superfoods, taste delicious and fresh as a stand-alone dish, home frozen vegetables may be better added into a soup, sauce, or stew.
If you’re looking for a delicious, easy to prepare vegetable side dish that’s perfectly seasoned and flash-frozen for optimal taste and nutrition, give Tommy’s Superfoods a try. With 10 products, there’s one for every night of the week!
What do you think?
Do you have useful tips for home freezing vegetables and reducing kitchen food waste? Any thoughts on homemade vs store-bought frozen vegetables? Be sure to share them in the comments section or let us know on social media.