It's March. What's growing in your garden? If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, probably not much. In a month or 2, if you grow a vegetable garden, you will probably be planting seeds, digging, weeding...and then later in the summer, harvesting your fresh home grown goodies! It's a wonderful thing to be able to grow your own food. You know exactly how it was grown. It's probably organic. Or, maybe you are one of those people who love to head out to the Farmer's Market on the weekends and grab the fresh produce sold there to feed your family on for the week.
Eating fresh produce is usually considered to be the best way to get your required serving of fruits and veggies. And in the summer months we don't have too many problems getting it fresh. If you buy local and in season produce, from local farmers and growers, you are pretty much guaranteed that you are getting the best.
During the winter months though, when the fields and trees are buried in snow, it comes down to buying what the grocery stores offer. Have you ever stopped to think where the produce in the grocery store came from? Or how it got to the store? Where did those bananas come from? Or the zucchini and lettuce? Obviously, they have had to travel from some other region to get to your grocery store produce aisles. In order for these 'fresh' foods to get to the store, they were picked before they reached their peak. In other words, they weren't ripe when they were harvested. And because they weren't ripe, they had not yet reached their full allotment of vitamins and minerals. While the fruit or veggie will look like it is ripe and ready to eat, it was actually denied it's full growing time so was also denied reaching it's full potential for goodness. What you are buying in the store is not really as nutritious as you think. And as people in general do not eat the recommended 9 servings a day (most people eat 3) of fruits and veggies we are getting even less of the vitamins and minerals we 'think' we are getting.
So, how do you make sure you are giving your family the most bang for your buck? What are the other options? Well, there is canned. And you can can your own vegetables from your garden. Unfortunately, the only produce that doesn't lose a bunch of nutrients in the canning process are tomatoes and pumpkin. ( Thanks goodness we can depend on our canned tomatoes! ) But what about the others? Buying frozen, or freezing your own home grown veggies, is your best bet. Produce bought frozen has the highest concentration of nutrients still intact. The freezing process is begun when the produce is picked at it's peak ripeness. Already it has it's full potential for nutrition. Then is it quickly blanched in boiling water or steam to kill any bacteria and stop any degrading. Although there is a small amount of vitamin C and B lost during this process, it is much less than what would be lost in canning or if the produce had not ripened fully. Freezing keeps the majority of the 'good stuff' in the vegetables and fruit, so you get more when you eat them.
Your best bet for frozen veggies are carrots, broccoli and leafy greens. Don't store them too long in your freezer-use them up! When it comes time to cook them, the microwave is great. Or boil a small amount of water in a pot, add the veggies, cover, bring to a boil and then drain. Don't over cook them.
Not only are frozen vegetables your best bet for winter time, they are also convenient and versatile! I find that I use them year round for convenience. I waste less because I only use what I need when I need it and it's not forgotten in my fridge crisper drawer, getting wilted and sad looking, destined for the compost pile.
Here is a link to 25 Ways to Use Frozen Mixed Vegetables which may inspire you to buy and use frozen. And another link to 15 Ways to Prepare Frozen Broccoli, which is one of the best vegetables to buy frozen.
If you haven't tried frozen, or have always thought fresh was better, I encourage you to try give them a whirl! You may even find it saves you money! Look for sales, interesting varieties and get creative!