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summer fruits & veggies

Freezing Your Fruits & Vegetables

National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables is coming to a close, so what better way to end it than to share tips on how to properly freeze your delicious produce to better preserve flavors and nutrients. First things first, let’s go over some basic rules.

  • Go For Ripe: Even after freezing, quality decreases over time, so it’s best to choose blemish-free produce at peak ripeness.
  • Pack It Up: Resealable freezer bags are your best bet, as they’re designed for freezing foods and are sturdier, decreasing the likeliness of tears or leaks (which causes freezer burn). If your only options are plastic wrap or standard resealable options, double up on layers or bags for extra protection.
  • Seal Out Air: Oxygen is the enemy. Consider investing in a vacuum sealer, which locks out air and potentially extends the shelf life for up to a year or longer. Alternately, you can stick a straw in a corner of the seal to suck out air before closing.
  • Mark It: To minimize food waste, be sure to list and date the contents of your bags. This helps you recognize what they are, prompting you to use the older stuff first. A good rule of thumb – You have six to twelve months to use frozen goods. If foods are covered in ice crystals or smell “off,” ditch them.

The Process
Some foods are ready to freeze, others need to be prepared first.

Ready To Go:

  • Berries – Remove any stems, then freeze whole.
  • Chili Peppers – Ideal for freezing as is. For less heat, scrape out the seeds beforehand.
  • Cherries – Some prefer to pit cherries before freezing, but it’s actually easier after. When they defrost, the flesh surrounding the pit weakens.
  • Corn – Cobs and kernels can be frozen, as long as you’ll be eating them within a month or two.
  • Figs – Freeze whole.
  • Tomatoes – Freeze whole; the skins slip right off after defrosting. If space is limited, you can chop first, then freeze in a bag.

Prep First:

  • Bell Peppers – Thinly slice or chop before freezing. For stuffed peppers, remove stems and scrape our seeds of halved bell peppers before freezing; stuff them while frozen.
  • Cucumbers – Thinly slice or chop before freezing. While the texture is compromised once frozen, but the flavor is not. Use these for drinks (DIY spa water), juicing, or smoothies.
  • Herbs – Chop herbs and divide among an empty ice cube tray. Top off each cube with olive oil so it fills the crevices and forces out any air, then freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a bag.
  • Melons – Cut melons into cubes or slices, removing the rind, then freeze on a baking sheet.
  • Stone Fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums) – Slice and remove the pit. For smoothies, leave the peel on. For pies or tarts, peel and slice before freezing.
  • Bananas – Peel then freeze whole or chopped into chunks.

Cook First:
The enzymes in some fruits and veggies will continue to break down even when frozen, but heat can halt this process.

  • Eggplant – These can be sliced into rounds (eggplant parm) or cut into smaller shapes (pastas and stir-fries); roast before freezing. Cooked eggplant can also be pureed then frozen.
  • Green Beans – Prepare the pods the way you’ll most likely use them – whole or cut into bitesize pieces. Blanch then freeze. These can be added straight to soup or stir-fries without defrosting.
  • Okra – Blanch the pods whole for three to four minutes, then freeze whole or in rounds.
  • Summer Squash/Zucchini – Cut squash into rounds and blanch for three minutes. For baked goods, grate and steam for one to two minutes. Thoroughly drain, then freeze and pack for storage. For grated squash, defrost completely, and then blot away excess moisture pre-use.

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Snack On This: Fruits & Vegetables

With the abundance of healthy fruit and vegetables, it only seems natural that we incorporate these delicious gems into our summer diet. To get you started, here are some amazing fruits and vegetables to add to your diet today!

With its peppery flavor, this little leafy green makes a great addition to salads. As the most nutrient-dense food, watercress earned the top billing on the “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables list compiled by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It contains a denser concentration of vitamin C than an orange, and is also a great source of calcium, iron, folate, plus vitamins A, B6, and K. Watercress also contains only 11 calories per 100 grams. In addition, a study found that daily intake of watercress could reduce DNA damage to blood cells significantly (DNA damage to blood cells is considered an important trigger in the development of cancer).

Fava Beans
Part of the legume family, fava beans are popular in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and South America. Also know as broad beans, fava beans are an excellent source of lean protein, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B1, B6, and K. In addition, they are rich in fiber and contain no cholesterol or saturated fats. You can enjoy them raw or cooked, however, the pods must be blanched first.

Who doesn’t love watermelon? Since it is nearly 92% water, it is a great way to stay hydrated on hot summer days. A two-cup serving contains 88 calories and 1g of fiber, plus it is a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which prevents cell damage.

Swiss Chard
Also a part of the CDC’s “powerhouse” list, lots of nutrients and vitamins are packed into the dark leaves and red, purple, or yellow stalks of Swiss chard. These nutrients include fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamin K. You can enjoy it raw in salads or cooked and sautéed (a cooked cup contains 3.5g of fiber and only 35 calories).

And because of its unique benefits for blood-sugar regulation, Swiss chard can be beneficial to diabetics. The syringic acid within Swiss chard inhibits the activity of alpha-glucosidase (enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars).

Passion Fruit
This South American fruit is a great source of fiber, antioxidants, plus vitamins A and C. One serving will also give you two times as much potassium as a banana.

Low in calories with high water content (almost 90%), radishes can be a great summer snack. Also included on the CDC’s list, they are natural diuretics, very filling, and contain vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and folate. Radishes are also natural detoxifiers, which is great for the liver, and have antipruritic properties, which is why they can be used to treat bee stings and insect bites.

Arugula is part of the cabbage family and has a mild peppery, spicy flavor. Another member of the CDC list, it contains 4 calories per cup and is a good source of folate, fiber, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K (14% of daily vitamin K requirements). Arugula also contains lutein, which is an antioxidant that maintains healthy eyes, skin, and heart.

With only 68 calories per peach, not only are peaches low in calories but they also provide a great source of fiber. They also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, which include vitamins C, A, E, and K, plus potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Try grilled peaches for an interestingly delicious treat.

Zucchini is a popular summer squash and a great source of fiber and potassium, with no fat or cholesterol. One cup has only 20 calories plus 35% of your daily recommended vitamin C. Zucchini can be enjoyed raw, grilled, rolled, or diced. Try making “zoodles” for a lighter pasta alternative.

These little red berries are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals including potassium and vitamin C. One cup of raspberries contains only 64 calories plus 8g of fiber, some of which is soluble in the form of pectin, which helps lower cholesterol. Raspberries may also help fight inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

Which fruits and vegetables do you like to snack on in the summer? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Find and follow us on Instagram, Vine, and Pinterest, too!

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