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Fresh vs Frozen? Getting to the bottom of an age-old debate.

Editorial consulting by the Culinary Institute of America

As a culinary instructor, I have had many conversations over the years about fresh vs frozen produce. Most people are quick to assume that frozen produce is of lesser quality than fresh. It kinda makes sense that something fresh would be better than something frozen, right?

Well, if you start thinking about how produce gets from the farm to the table, you may change your mind. Just how long does it take for fruits and vegetables to get from field to market? Speaking in ideal terms, a product that is in season and ripe still needs to get picked, cleaned, packed, shipped to a warehouse, then to a distributor or market, and finally to the end user. At each of these stops there’s going to be some storage time, making it take even longer to get from Point A to Point B. It could take days or weeks from the time a fruit or vegetable is picked until it’s finally used.

Here is the question – What happens to the quality of the produce during all that time? And what about everything else it must endure, from bumping and bruising, to changes in temperature and humidity? There is no simple answer because each fruit or vegetable responds differently. But they all change as a result. Some of these changes include the conversion of starch to sugar or sugars to starch. Others include loss of important nutrients, color, and ultimately flavor.

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So, what about frozen? Most frozen produce goes from field to freezer in less than 24 hours. This allows it to be picked at its peak of ripeness without having to allow for such variables as transportation, storage, and time to market. Today’s Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) technology is such that the nutritional value of the food is locked in, and products are frozen fast enough to minimize the formation of ice crystals. IQF ensures the quality and integrity of the product.

Chef tips for using frozen

When using frozen fruits or vegetables like frozen Wild Blueberries, it is best to incorporate them into a recipe in their frozen state. IQF Wild Blueberries are just as easily measurable as their fresh kin. Using frozen also prevents moisture loss and preserves both flavor and water soluble nutrients. Why let all that goodness escape down the drain?

Coat frozen Wild Blueberries with a light dusting of flour or corn starch to prevent the juices from bleeding into product. This has the added advantage of holding the berries in suspension in baked products so gravity can’t clump them on the bottom of the cake or muffin tin. If the berries must be defrosted, save the juice. Bring it to a boil, slowly reduce it to a syrup, and use it as an ingredient, sauce or glaze.

Frozen ensures nutrition, taste & easy portioning

The next time you get ready to place your produce order, consider how much better off your dishes and beverages will be with high-quality and versatile frozen ingredients. With flavor and nutrients locked in, no concern of spoilage, and easy portioning, purchasing frozen means you always have product at hand while enjoying 100% yield. And the next time you consider purchasing fresh berries, ask yourself where they came from and how long it took for them to get there. Frozen Wild Blueberries are often better tasting, better performing, and frankly, more affordable.

Frozen Wild Blueberries are not just for muffins either. Puree frozen berries right into your favorite smoothie in lieu of ice. Fold them into pancakes. Top granola with frozen Wild Blueberries for a sweet-tart and chewy counterpoint to the crunchy oats and nuts. My favorite is eating them right out of the bag. On those hot Hudson Valley summer days, there is nothing like a few frozen Wild Blueberries to cool you down.

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About the Author 

Chef David Kamen, PCIII, MBA

Project Manager, CIA Consulting

Chef David Kamen has enjoyed a diverse career in the culinary world. He served as executive chef of St. Andrew’s Café, one of five award-winning public restaurants on the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park campus. He’s also been professor of culinary arts at CIA, where he taught everything from culinary skills development, to seafood and meat identification and fabrication, to breakfast cookery. Today, Chef Kamen is a project manager for CIA Consulting, where he is responsible for planning and managing custom projects for professional foodservice operations. A certified hospitality educator, Kamen earned dual certification from the CIA and the American Culinary Federation as a ProChef Level III (PCIII) and Certified Executive Chef (CEC).  He also holds a B.A. and M.A. in Business Administration from Empire State College.