FOOD PRESERVATION WARS
Obviously Fresh is best. But we can’t always have fresh 365 days a year, and certain fruits and vegetables are not available at different times during the year. So what is the next best option? Many people argue about the nutrient loss in foods as they become preserved. This is somewhat true, but only to a certain point. The readily available nutrients may be lessened, but the overall makeup of the food is still there, and many of the nutrients will indeed stay in food. I am going to break down Frozen, canned, pickled, and dehydrated food, and then give you my take. But in the end it totally comes down to personal preference.
Pickled Dehydrated Frozen Canned
Frozen – Freezing something is by far the easiest method. It requires no special tools, the freezer does the preserving work for you, and it will be there for a long time since bacteria and molds are not actively breaking down food at that low of temperature. The best part about it is that almost anything can be frozen, this means that while many methods can preserve food, the freezer is by far the most versatile. The downside is that if the freezer breaks, your harvest will begin to unthaw and this leads to rotten produce. Another downside is that the food must be blanched to remove Enzymes in food will turn the food brown or even back over time, and this means spoiled food. But it also means less enzymes for your body which have been proven to be very beneficial. Last thing is that the food has a tenancy to get mushy since the fibers are broken down from the blanching and then freezing process.
Dehydrated – Dehydrating is a popular method of preserving for many, while it is the most time consuming. It does require a dehydrator, or a very dry climate, as any humidity will lead to spoilage. The benefits of dehydrating is that many of the nutritional benefits remain, and the fiber is still in tact. This allows you to also simply add water and the fruit or vegetable will absorb that water and become plump. This saves so much more space than conventional methods since a vegetable can be between 70-90% water. This high water content means once it is removed, there will be tons more space for other preserved harvests. However that water also takes time to be removed. Dehydrating can take anywhere from 8-48 hours. And with new dehydrator models, they use quite a large amount of electricity to run which is not sustainable. But a home drying rack can be made for very inexpensive.
Video: “How to Dehydrate Herbs”
Pickled – Pickling is thought to be one of the oldest forms of food preservation. It uses a mixture of salt and vinegar to create a highly salinic and acidic brine that uses the process of osmotic pressure to draw water from the cells of the fruit or vegetable for preservation, and also creates a very unfavorable for bacteria to live in. This process is very versatile, but requires lots of space to house all the jars. It also is not as healthy as other options as it is very acidic, and high in salt which raises blood pressure and draws water from the body much like it does with the vegetables. The shelf life is limited with pickled items to around 1 year and not recommended more than two. One benefit though is that the texture is retained so cucumbers, beans, asparagus and other vegetables stay crisp, and crunchy as if they were harvested that day.
Canned – Canning is an American past time like baseball. Many people will can since it is versatile, preserves color, flavor, and texture. It also retains many of the natural fibers and nutrients found in the vegetable or fruit. some of the downsides are that it requires a pressure cooker to do canning safely. Some vegetables like beans and carrots do not need it, but to be o the safe side all vegetables “should” be canned using a pressure cooker. The processing time is more than freezing, but less than dehydrating, and much healthier than pickling. The last downside is that it takes up shelf space due to the jars. The shelf life is around 1 year but is recommended to be consumed before then (around 3-6 months).
Video: “How to Can Pears”
In Conclusion: I choose to do a combination of canning and freezing. I like aspects of both, and the overall versatility of both. For my harder to can items like corn I will freeze, but I also will freeze greens like swiss chard that could never be canned.