Fresh fruit has to be eaten fairly soon; otherwise it quickly goes off and lands in the dustbin. But what happens when you freeze your fruit?
Most people, when thinking about food that can be frozen, would not necessarily include fresh fruit on that list. Many types of fruit go soggy or brown in the freezer, and, quite simply, look unappetising.
But is there a right way in which to freeze fruit?
What happens when fruit is frozen?
All produce, including fruit, start losing nutrients the moment they are picked. Cold storage can, however, slow down this process by locking in the nutrients, especially the water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and E. Many types of fruit only fully ripen after they have been picked. Once frozen, fruit can be kept for up to a year, until they are needed. Freezing can delay the ripening and decaying process. This means that they can be eaten all year-round and not just when they are in season.
Fruits with a very high water content, such as watermelon and plums, can become soggy when they are defrosted. The water inside the fruit freezes. When the ice expands, it punches through the cell walls, making the texture mushy. Some fruit can also go brown when frozen, making them look unappetising. But neither of these processes affect the taste or the nutrient content. If you want to use the fruit for making smoothies, for instance, none of this would matter.
What fruits can you freeze?
Fruits that freeze well include berries of any kind, bananas, pineapples, kiwi, mango, nectarines, peaches, cherries, strawberries and apples. Even if the texture changes, you can still use the fruit for making pies, or fruit drinks.
Tips on freezing fruit
1. To prevent browning, dissolve half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder in three tablespoons of water and sprinkle it over the fruit before freezing it. You can also use lemon juice.
2. To prevent fruit from sticking together in clumps, freeze them first in a single layer on a baking tray before putting them in a container in the freezer for long-term storage.
3. Air-tight containers work best for freezing fruit.
4. Freeze fruit that is already ripe and that have no blemishes.
5. Date the packages, so that you know by when to use the contents.
6. Fill containers to the top – the less air the fruit is exposed to, the better.
By Susan Erasmus
2. Michigan State University