Is Fresh Always Best?

By Cheryl Angelina Koehler


My kitchen is the haunt of two creative cooks who shop each day for fresh ingredients—a common enough scenario, here in the fabulously food-rich Bay Area. But recently, a house guest came through and found something amiss.

“There’s nothing in your freezer to heat and eat,” he said with some astonishment. True enough. Going inside the frozen wasteland of my Frigidaire can be like visiting the empty parts of Siberia. The only evidence that humans have ever visited that cold compartment might be the freshness of the ice cubes in their trays and the recent dates on the homemade chicken stock that appears a day after a roast chicken dinner.

Until recently, I felt no compulsion to change this state of affairs, but a new train of thought is gaining momentum. I’m considering putting in some provisions. Sometime this spring, I intend to acquire a whole organically-fed lamb from Full Belly Farm. The parts of it that don’t fit into my freezer will no doubt find takers among lamb-loving co-conspirators, but I don’t anticipate taking long to use up the parts that I keep. I figure that the lamb will disappear just in time so that I can begin freezing some prime fruits and vegetables as they come in season.
Stepping back a moment here, I want to say that until a recent epiphany, I regarded frozen produce as inferior to fresh. Several facts and ideas have conspired to turn my head around on this, and I will spell them out forthwith:

  • When produce is frozen at its peak ripeness and freshness, it retains more nutrients than fresh produce that is past its prime.
  • When fresh produce is bought in season and frozen, it is cheaper and more sustainably sound than fresh produce bought out of season.
  • It is a proven fact that a full freezer uses less energy to stay cold than an empty or partially filled freezer.

    So there you have it. Anyone who tends a large garden can concur that it is both sensible and appealing to freeze part of the harvest for off-season enjoyment. Just imagine looking forward to ripe peaches and berries in winter. Yes, there is a little bit of work involved, but mostly it’s work that you would do anyway to prepare the food for immediate consumption. Peaches and strawberries can be sliced and sprinkled with a little sugar before getting sealed up in freezer bags. Berries can be frozen whole, but also benefit from a little sugar. Green beans, leafy greens, and broccoli should be blanched lightly before packing and freezing. Parsley, basil, and cilantro can be made into pesto and then frozen. You don’t have to be a home gardener to do this. Just buy extra portions as your favorite produce comes in season and freeze it.

    This all sounds a bit old fashioned, doesn’t it? Well, so is knitting. With all the people taking up knitting these days, maybe even canning and dehydrating will start to seem like worthwhile past-times. Sure beats TV. ❖