Fresh vs. Frozen?

Fruits and vegetables are the nutritional mainstay of your diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may protect against many health problems. After reading an article discussing the nutritional contents of fresh versus frozen fruits and vegetables, I realized how important produce is and the important culinary issues the article failed to mention. In 1998, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. However, it depends on where you purchase the produce (quality), the method of preparation (raw or braised), and the time between the harvesting of the vegetable and canning (freshness). Anyway, the point of the article is that there is no clear cut answer between fresh versus frozen. Fresh is not always better than frozen and vice versa – it depends on the situation. So, whether you love fruits and vegetables or not, please read on so that at least you will have the pleasure in understanding their culinary value, purpose, and uses.

First, when discussing fresh, one need to make clear whether the produce is purchased from Costco or a local farm market. Large super market stores receive produce many days later than the local farmers market thus not always providing what is freshest.

Two, how you plan on preparing the vegetables is important. If you look to simmer veggies in a stew you can get away with frozen or canned but if you plan on drizzling olive oil and lemon juice on your veggies use fresh to enjoy their natural flavors. Third, if you plan on purchasing frozen or canned vegetables, make sure the vegetables are frozen and/or packed at the peak of their season. For example, if I use canned tomatoes, I make sure to use San Marzano tomatoes because I know that they are canned in a matter of hours from harvest insuring me of the finest, freshest, natural tasting tomato product. Generally, frozen or canned vegetables are prepared immediately upon harvest when their nutrient content is at its peak. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case so please don’t purchase that assorted bag of vegetables – you know the one I am talking about. The one that has frozen carrots, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, corn, etc. The one that when cooked turns the vegetables to a soppy mess leaving them limp and without any texture or flavor. There is no way all of these vegetables can be simultaneously flash frozen at the peak of their season.


If you are looking to enhance a pasta dish and have the option between fresh tomatoes or frozen tomato sauce made when tomatoes were at the peak of the season, use the latter as it will provide not only the same nutritional content but also more flavor and depth ness to your meal.
If you are looking to make a simple salad or side to your juicy rib eye steak (my favorite), stick to fresh vegetables which will provide both a higher nutritional content as well as much more flavor than frozen vegetables.

In regards to fruit, if you are looking to make a smoothie, go with the frozen blueberries and strawberries. If you are looking to make a decadent dessert, say for example figs with zabaglione (Italian custard) only go with fresh figs – figs that are sweet and colorful and at peak of their season.

All in all, just remember that the food creation dictates the frozen versus fresh dilemma. Hopefully this article will bring to light some questions or concerns you may have with produce. In the end, the best suggestion is to just eat more fruits and vegetables – eat them, boiled, dried, fried, frozen, grilled, raw, roasted, or steamed. Eat more and enjoy the wonderful variety of flavors, textures, and ways that you can prepare and enjoy the coming of spring with your family.