Go ahead, canned peaches, and take your rightful place in a healthy diet. According to the experts, you have just as much reason to be there as your fresh friends.
My grandmother did it and her mother before her. My mother? Not so much – she wanted no part of it, as America’s developing grocery industry made huge strides in the 1950s. The activitiy? Canning- and I have no idea how it’s done but I’m going to find out.
I just read an article by a local dietitian regarding the nutritional value of canned fruits and produce. She said that in some cases the canned varieties may even be preferable to their younger cousins – especially if you’re like me and leave them laying around way past their peak.
Produce in canned form is making a comeback—for many reasons, not the least of which is the cost – often significantly lower than fresh varieties. Even better if you pick your own produce this summer and can it yourself.
Personally, I’ve never done that, but I’m looking for a teacher to give me some tips. We took our first step yesterday and purchased bales of hay to spawn my bumper crop of tomatoes, squash, eggplant and such. We’ll be treating them with nitrogen for the next ten days – then it’s “Maters, do yo thing!”
There is a trend on the part of chefs – both domestic and commercial – to rely on homegrown fruits and veges. When they incorporate canning techniques to preserve seasonal produce, “They enjoy lower food costs, since they’re buying local, in-season produce, and control of the canning quality in terms of taste and preservation, since they’re canning the products themselves,” says Jeannie Houchins, MA, RD, a food and nutrition consultant in Chicago.
“Also, since chefs and cooks are canning or preserving the products themselves, it allows them to be more creative with the preservation ingredients and combinations, since it’s not a mass-produced product.”
And remember, transporting produce requires energy, which is not good for the environment. It also means that fresh produce, whether domestic or imported, is harvested long before you eat it, which may mean significant nutrient losses. Long transit times may also encourage waste, as consumers throw out a portion of spoiled or slightly spoiled produce. I think canned produce is an excellent value because there is no waste and because it’s a way to work in fruits and vegetables all year round.
Incorporating canned foods into recipes is often easier because they are already cooked, saving a cooking step—especially for vegetables such as pumpkin, which is more convenient when canned, regardless of the season. Like canned beans, for example, you may not have time to soak dry beans overnight, then cook the beans the next day, and then prepare them in a meal. Keeping a variety of canned beans on hand is a huge time-saver, and they’re just as good of a source of protein, whether they are sold as dry, frozen, or fresh,” she says.
A recent University of California study, found all forms of fruits and veggies—canned, cooked fresh, and frozen—are nutritionally similar and can contribute to a healthful eating plan.
The canning process locks in nutrients at their peak of freshness, and due to the lack of oxygen during the storage period, canned fruits and vegetables remain relatively stable up until the time they are consumed and have a longer shelf life. In contrast, some fresh vegetables, such as spinach and green beans, lose up to 75% of their vitamin C within seven days of harvest, even when held at the recommended refrigerator temperature, according to the study.
Tomatoes are a great example of a vegetable that is sometimes better canned. They’re more flavorful than fresh hothouse tomatoes, and nutritionally speaking, the body’s ability to use the heart-healthy antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes is greater when tomatoes are cooked or canned because of the heat from the canning process.
Well, “I declare!” as my grandmother always said when astounded by something. One-half cup of canned tomatoes provides 11.8 milligrams of lycopene compared to just 3.7 milligrams found in one medium fresh uncooked tomato. Canned tomatoes and tomato sauces are among the best sources of the heart-healthy antioxidant lycopene.”
Canned foods retain their nutrients for up to two years, and canneries are often located within a few miles of the field, helping ensure that canned food is processed at its peak.
When my garden starts coming in, I’ll have my water bath ready. I’m already feeling very virtuous – canning my own fruits and vegetables and wearing my new “I Love Lucy” apron, Olivia game me for my last birthday – even have matching rubber gloves.