© Denzil Green
Vegetables that are canned and frozen commercially are grown specially for that purpose. Usually the plants that do the processing are even located right near to the fields, to allow the Vegetables to come straight from the fields to the processing plant.
There is little manual work involved in processing Vegetables now: it is all automated. Machines sort them by size, wash them, and peel Vegetables such as root Vegetables. Conveyor belts, though, do allow plant workers to inspect the Vegetables at various stages.
Canned Vegetables often have salt, and sometimes sugar, added, to help preserve them in the can. These are necessary additives: Vegetables are low acid, and even when you preserve Vegetables at home, you need to add things to help them last and stay safe. Frozen Vegetables, however, don’t these additives.
Unarguably a head of broccoli straight out of your back garden 5 minutes ago and now sitting on your kitchen will have more nutrients than a bag of frozen broccoli, because the frozen has been blanched and therefore partially cooked. But once you cook both of them up, they will end up the same, and fresh Vegetables that are out of season where you live are almost certainly going to be less “fresh” than frozen Vegetables from the start when you get them home.
From 1977 to 1997, per capita consumption of frozen Vegetables increased by 40%, as did that of fresh veg by 40% as well. Canned vegetable consumption went down by 20% in that period.
The difference in grades is based on appearance and texture of the Vegetables. They reflect what consumers think are the better Vegetables and, like consumers down through the ages, consumers today use visual criteria in making their judgements. There is no nutritional difference, making the lower grades better buys for those who need to economize or for when the vegetable will be used in a dish or in some way that appearance is not of critical importance (e.g. puréed in a soup or chopped up in a casserole.)
|Top grade||U.S. Grade A
aka CANADA FANCY
Imported goods: Fancy Grade (aka Grade A)
|Medium grade||U.S. Grade B
aka Extra Standard
aka CANADA CHOICE
Imported goods: Choice Grade (aka Grade B)
|U.S. Grade C
aka CANADA STANDARD
Imported goods: Standard Grade (aka Grade C)
* Some states and provinces have their own, additional standards. British Columbia and Washington State, for example, have an Extra Fancy grade.
It takes a lot of fertilizer and, yes, chemicals to turn out the perfect looking Vegetables that people will buy. Many people blame the supermarkets:
“These ‘beauty pageant’ standards are enshrined in the EU’s fruit and vegetable grading scheme, which reserves the grades ‘Extra Class’ and ‘Class 1’ – the classes supermarkets seek – for strictly catwalk produce. To qualify for membership of these classes, it isn’t enough just to look good; the produce has to be of uniform shape and size, too. The consequences of this obsession have been devastating.” (Joanna Bythman. “Toxic Shock. In “The Guardian.” Saturday, 20 October 2001.)
It’s a bit disingenuous, though, to blame the supermarkets. Supermarkets are in the business of selling what we are demanding. If we preferred russet apples, russets would make a staggering comeback on supermarket shelves. And middle-class champagne foodies say one thing and then do another: it wouldn’t be surprising if after emailing the above article to her editor, that very same writer popped out to Sainsbury’s or Waitrose’s and picked out only the best-looking Vegetables for her dinner party for her similarly-enlightened friends.
If you are marinating Vegetables before barbequing, most really only need about 15 to 30 minutes in the marinade.
Adding baking soda to the water was an old trick. It made the water alkaline and kept green veg a brilliant green. But what you make up for in colour, you lose in overall appearance and texture as the Vegetables will turn mushy, and it will destroy vitamins.
– © Denzil Green
Instead, cook the vegetable in a large amount of boiling water, and leave the pan uncovered for the first few minutes. Vegetable lose their greenness when a plant’s own acids come into contact with the chlorophyll in it. The large amount of water will help dilute the acids, and the acids that are volatile will escape with the steam, instead of condensing inside the lid and falling back into the pot.
When cooking cabbage or turnip, make sure to keep the lid a bit off the pot for the entire time; if the acids drip back into the water, they give cabbage and turnip the strong, unpleasant tastes that everyone loved to hate.
Additionally, a large amount of boiling water means that there will be less of an overall temperature drop when the frozen or otherwise vegetable is dropped into the water, and so it will return to the boil more quickly. The more quickly it boils, the quicker it kills the enzymes that get released from Vegetables that kill vitamins.
If it takes 1 minute for the water to resume boiling, the vegetable can have up to 20% of its vitamin C destroyed by enzymes. On the other hand, vegetables cooked in a small amount of water or steamed retain twice as much vitamin C compared to those cooked in lots of water. The more water, the more nutrients that will leach into it. If you save all your vegetable waters for stocks, this is not a problem (the vegetable water will not retain vitamin C, but it will retain the other vitamins and minerals.) If you don’t, you then have to choose between appearance and nutrition.
Some Vegetables, such as frozen spinach and frozen chopped onion, are really handy to have on hand all the time ready to go for brunches, quiches, etc.
Vegetables that are natural thickeners owing to the sticky juices they give off include okra, cactus leaves and mallow root. These are called “Viscuous Vegetables”.