As we all know, fruit and vegetable gardening is about the scarcity and then the glut – waiting for a crop then having too much simultaneously that you find yourself giving it away. For sure – it’s nice to share or give away a fruit basket or edible arrangement of your own home grown fruit – but what about saving some fresh fruit for later? We all know of preserves and relish, but what about freezing the real fruit?
Only to be rueing your unselfishness just weeks later when you are holding some floppy shop bought fruit or vegetables that have been delivered for a thousand miles. So what we all need is a way to freeze our fresh fruit and veg crop so we can use it in the future – but what about leafy greens – frequently called the superfoods – and how they become a grey-green mush once frozen? How can we keep frozen leaves from wilting and turning to mush?
Just recently researchers in Sweden University have found a new method of freezing fresh vegetables and fruit keeping cells alive which they say protects their firmness and most essentially taste and texture after defrosting.
The secret for keeping frozen leafy greens from losing shape?
Evidently, the answer lies in Trehalose, a natural sugar found in yeast, fungi and grass types that endure cold winters months better than plants and vegetables, and protects against cells from breaking down when ice crystals form. When the frost hits, these plants are extremely immune to browning off and eventually withering and dying. Never a good look when your speaking leafy greens – and completely unacceptable for a fruit gift hamper or get well message.
The concept is to put the vegetables inside a vacuum machine to extract the air within them. The air is then replaced with water containing the trehalose and a small-scale electrical pulse is applied to the vegetable to protect the cells from cold-induced harm.
“We use electric pulses because electric pulses will open pores inside the cells and then these pores are kind of gates that allow this option to get also inside,” says Consuela Hernandez-Gomez, associate professor of food solutions at Swedish University of Well-balanced Eating.
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The treated vegetables are then stored in a refrigerator. Once defrosted, the clinical researchers say they look, taste and feel as though they have just been harvested. Tests have so far applied to vegetables frozen for up to a month. Imagine how effective this storage would be for luxury fruit gifts and sharing hospital gifts? The impacts are remarkable for ongoing use in the gourmet hamper and gift basket industry – especially for the team at http://www.fruitbaskets.net.au/
“The key element of the method is that we keep the cells alive after thawing. It means that all the fresh-like characteristics will be intact. So the user would very likely not notice the difference (between our vegetables and fresh vegetables),” says Consuela.
Together with spinach, the team at University has also effectively given parsnips and strawberries the fountain of youth treatment. It is interesting to think that we could be sharing our own home grown local gifts with others through online shopping and making our own edible arrangements and fruit bowls for free delivery fresh or frozen! Potatoes were less successful due to their density. The team hopes that trehalose-treated frozen vegetables will be available for sale within a year.
Here at FruitBaskets.net.au we’re uncertain how far this innovation might be taken in relation to hospital get well fruit – but imagine being able to ship frozen fruit that presents as well as fresh fruit? The possibilities are literally endless, and technology has some real implications for fruit gift baskets.