Friday, December 7, 2007

It's winter here. I know it won't technically be winter for another couple weeks, but in Michigan there's snow and ice and it's cold. We've since noticed the annual change in our grocery store's produce section - less variety, higher prices, lower quality. What's a foodie to do? Well, we have two approaches: 1) Embracing root vegetables and 2) Frozen food. Yes, both are mainstays of the vegetable universe at our house during the late fall - early spring season. Roots are good, plentiful, and cheap all through the winter. They're hearty and add bulk to meals on cold winter evenings. If you're only really familiar with potatoes and carrots, I strongly urge you to experiment with turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips. Beets can be good in winter, but are usually best (and least expensive) in the fall.

The other route is the frozen aisle. For some of you this may seem to go against much that we stand for (prepackaged, not fresh, not local), but if you think about the choices we face at this time of year, frozen makes a lot of sense. I cannot get around the fact that frozen vegetables are prepackaged. That's going to be a downside. However, in terms of freshness, frozen vegetables have as many or more nutrients as fresh vegetables, as they are frozen at the peak of ripeness. Most produce that you buy in stores is picked early to allow for ripening in transit (and to prevent bruising). Frozen vegetables are left on the vine (or plant or tree) for much longer and flash frozen pretty much immediately, trapping all those nutritional goodies inside. Frozen vegetables are not local, but no local produce is available in Michigan in December. Unless we quit eating vegetables (or take up canning!), buying veggies frozen in Des Moines is probably a better choice than fresh ones from Australia. The variety of frozen vegetables now available is amazing and allows us to eat some vegetables we don't usually buy, even at their peak, due to cost (witness tonight's wax beans and haricot verts). The last benefit from frozen vegetables is that you often get bonuses in terms of convenience - no chopping, blending done for you, and no slime in pre-sliced okra! I recommend individually quick frozen vegetables (IQF) over their "block" counterparts (if they come in a bag that when shaken sounds like a rattle it's likely IQF), but we certainly have used both.

Careful readers will note we do eat some long-transit fresh veggies (salad, cilantro, and parsley being notable offenders) in winter, but the root and frozen strategy takes us a long way!

No comments: