PRINCE ALBERT -- If you’re often disappointed with mushy frozen vegetables, you’re not alone. It’s a common complaint, and one a team from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada aims to fix with research into new cold storage methods.
Dr. Tony Savard and a team from Agriculture Canada’s St-Hyacinthe Research Development Centre worked to come up with a better method than the traditional blanching process, which briefly heat-treats the vegetables before they are frozen. Although blanching limits freezer burn and helps ensure safety, it can have a negative impact on taste and texture.
“Most vegetables are okay to go under freezing,” Savard told farmnewsNOW. “But others like onions, mushrooms, or zucchini with a lot of pulp inside are very difficult to freeze.”
Savard said he and his team came up with an alternative method which partially dries the vegetables using low doses of microwaves during a vacuum process. This avoids the breakdown of plant tissues while preserving the texture and flavour and ensuring food safety, he said.
“With that process we’re able to extract a certain amount of water from the fresh vegetables,” he said. “We avoid the mushy texture after freezing.”
Extracting some of the water through the microwave process can actually improve the flavour of the frozen veggies, Savard said, because the process concentrates the natural sugars. The process can be more expensive than blanching, he said, but produces a far superior end product.
Savard said the improved process could open new markets for Canadian-produced frozen vegetables. According to Statistics Canada data, the market for preserved fruits and vegetables was valued at more than $10 billion, producing almost $6.5 billion in annual revenue and employing more than 17,000 Canadian workers.
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