A review for Cowgirl in New York came in just this week that caught our eye. It was pretty lukewarm, but there was one interesting part:
The potatoes were cold and the veggies very clearly came from a can or, worse yet, were frozen. They had chunks of okra thrown in to make it seem like they were fresh - they weren’t.
Huh? Frozen vegetables worse than canned ones? And that’s not the first time we’ve heard that.
So, we just thought we’d set the record straight. Here’s the comparison, broken down into easily digestible components:
• Nutrition: In this regard, the two are the same. According to this study at the University of Illinois, “consumers should be confident that if a food is suggested as being ‘high in nutrient X,’ then the form (canned, frozen or fresh) will not alter that. So, for example, those canned tomatoes have just as much lycopene as fresh tomatoes. Advantage: Tie.
• Additives: Frozen veggies have none. They are sliced, diced, blanched (i.e. plunged into boiling water for a minute and then into ice water) and frozen, so no problems there. Canned veggies, however, have salt, and lots of it. It acts as a preservative, and though many companies now have lower-sodium versions, that’s still extra salt that you don’t need. And when it comes to canned fruits, they’re generally swimming in corn syrup (sugar: another preservative), which adds lots of lovely calories. Advantage: Frozen.
• Taste: Absolutely no contest here. Despite what the reviewer above may think, frozen veggies win the taste test hands down. Why? Because they taste almost exactly like the fresh veggies in many cases. If you buy good frozen corn or green beans, you probably could not tell the difference once they were sauteed and plated. Try doing that with salty, soggy, overcooked canned green beans. Advantage: Frozen
So now you know. Fresh and in season is best, but when that’s not an option, frozen beats canned. Of course, canned stuff is useful; think tomatoes, which don’t freeze well and are very useful canned, and cucumbers, which also can’t be frozen but when canned transform into lovely pickles. But for many ‘side vegetable’ staples, like peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans, corn and spinach, you’re better off buying it in the freezer section.
Cowgirl [Official Site]
Comparison of selected fresh, canned and frozen fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein foods [UIUC]
Photos: paulidin/flickr and dieselgirl777/flickr