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Freshness Of Fruits And Vegetables

Categories: Diet and Nutrition
Sources: How And When To Be Your Own Doctor

Most people do not realize the crucial importance of freshness when

it comes to produce. In the same way that seeds gradually die,

fruits and vegetables go through a similar process as their

nutritional content gradually oxidizes or is broken down by the

vegetables own enzymes, but vegetables lose nutrition hundreds of

times more rapidly than cereals. Produce was recently part of a

living plant. It was connected to the
vascular system of a plant and

with few exceptions, is not intended by nature to remain intact

after being cut. A lettuce or a zucchini was entirely alive at the

moment of harvest, but from that point, its cells begin to die. Even

if it is not yet attacked by bacteria, molds and fungi, its own

internal enzymes have begun breaking down its own substances.

Vegetables, especially leafy vegetables, are far more critical in

this respect than most ripe fruits. All, however, deteriorate much

like radioactive material; they have a sort of half-life. The

mineral content is stable, but in respect to the vitamins and

enzymes and other complex organic components, each time period or

"half life" results in the loss of half the nutrition. Suppose a

lettuce has a half life of 48 hours, two days after harvest only 50

percent of the original nutrition remains. After two more days, half

the remaining half is gone and only 25 percent is left. After two

more days half of that 25 percent is lost. Thus six days after

harvest and a lettuce contains only bout 12 percent of its original

nutrition. A two day half-life is only hypothetical. Those types of

produce I classify as very perishable probably do have a half-life

of from 36 to 48 hours. Moderately perishable produce has a half

life of about 72 hours; durable types of produce have half lives of

96 hours or longer.

Vegetable Storage Potential

Very Perishable Moderately Perishable Durable

lettuce zucchini apple

spinach eggplant squash

Chinese cabbage sweet peppers oranges

kale broccoli cabbage

endive cauliflower carrot

peaches apricots lemons

parsley beets

The half life of produce can be lengthened by lowering its

temperature. For that reason, sophisticated produce growers usually

use hydrocooling. This process dumps a just-cut vegetable into icy

water within minutes of being harvested, lowering core temperature

to a few degrees above freezing almost immediately. When cut

vegetables are crated up at field temperatures, and stacks of those

crates are put in a cooler, it can take the inside of the stack 24

hours, or longer, to become chilled. Home gardeners should also

practice hydrocooling. Fill your sink with cold water and wash/soak

your harvest until it is thoroughly chilled before draining and

refrigerating it. Or, harvest your garden early in the morning when

temperatures are lowest.

Still, when you buy produce in the store it may have been sitting at

room temperature for hours or possibly days.

The bottom line here: fresh is equally as important as unsprayed or

organically grown!