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Frozen Vegetables

In general terms vegetable means the edible portions of plants. This is the traditional definition, definitely not scientific. The word 'vegetable' is therefore used in an arbitrarily in the general colloquy. In fact the usage of the term has a subjective as aspect as well depending on the individual cultural customs of food selection and food preparation.

To be define ipso facto as a herbaceous plant or plant part which is regularly eaten as unsweetened or salted food by humans is considered to be a vegetable. However the mushrooms that belong to the biological kingdom Fungi, are also generally considered to be vegetables, at least in the vegetable market.  And the nuts, seeds, grains, herbs, spices and culinary fruits are usually not considered to be vegetables (in accordance with the first definition), even though all of them are edible parts of plants.

The chefs usually regard the vegetables to be suitable for savory or salted dishes, rather than sweet dishes, although there are many exceptions, such as pumpkin pie.


Diet Rich in Vegetables
"Eat your vegetables" is one of the tried and true recommendations for a healthy diet. Afterall, it's hard to argue with the health benefits of a diet rich in vegetables:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and probably some cancers
  • Lower risk of eye and digestive problems
  • A mellowing effect on blood sugar that can help keep appetite in check. 
Vegetables should make up a large portion of one's diet. They are low in calories, which is good, and they are high in vitamins, minerals, photochemical and fiber, which is even better. Experts suggest that one should eat five to nine servings of vegetables every day. Eating the suggested amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is difficult for many people. Busy schedules, eating on the run, and the temptation of junk foods are all barriers to getting enough vegetables into the diet. Frozen vegetables provide one with a quick and easy option: Heat them quickly on the stove or in the microwave. One can choose single vegetables such as peas, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, or one can try seasoned blends of vegetables.

What are Frozen Vegetables?
Frozen vegetables are omnipresent in the markets, and are increasingly becoming a important part of the food industry worldwide. Frozen Vegetables are packaged vegetables that are sold in the frozen section of the store, usually packaged in either rectangular boxes or plastic bags.

Ordinarily frozen vegetables found in the markets include spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, yam and mixtures of these and other vegetables.

Vegetables are usually frozen within hours of being picked, and during the thawing process, they are very close to fresh in taste and texture. The frozen vegetables are becoming increasingly popular in time-starved nuclear households. If the meal can be heated in a microwave, total time from freezer to table can be less than five minutes. Besides offering fresh taste and convenience, freezing is also a safe method of preservation, as most pathogens are inactivated at low temperatures. Apart from this nutritional benefit, frozen vegetables allow us to enjoy the vegetable of our choice at any time of year, no matter what the season.


A Brief History of Frozen Vegetable
According to trade history, it was Clarence Birdseye who invented, developed, and commercialized a method for quick-freezing food products in convenient packages and without altering the original taste. His invention was based on his observation of the Eskimos of the Arctic, who preserved fresh fish and meat in barrels of sea water quickly

frozen by the arctic temperatures. This finding led him to conclude that it was the rapid freezing in the extremely low temperatures that made food retain freshness when thawed and cooked months later. And thus came into being the technique of quick freezing is a process through which items are frozen at such a speed that only small ice crystals are able to form. In the process the cell walls are not damaged, and the frozen food, when thawed, keeps it's maximum flavor, texture, and color. Birdseye experimented with quick-freezing other foods, including fruits and vegetables, and soon became convinced that he had a viable commerical venture.

In 1923, with an investment of $7 for an electric fan, buckets of brine, and cakes of ice, Clarence Birdseye invented and later perfected a system of packing fresh food into waxed cardboard boxes and flash-freezing under high pressure. Birdseye refined and perfected a machine called a "Quick Freeze Machine" that he unveiled in 1925.


Nutritional Aspect of Frozen Vegetables
In general, boiling vegetables can cause them to lose important nutrients, including vitamins. In particular, Vitamins C and Folic acid are susceptible to loss during the commercial process. There has always been controversy as to whether frozen vegetables are better or worse than fresh ones. However, reports show that frozen vegetables are not so much nutritionally different from fresh ones.

According to a 1998 report of the Food and Drug Administration, freezing is a very efficient method of preserving the nutritional value, texture and flavor of many vegetables. Most vitamins will keep well in frozen vegetables. Carotene (a compound that is converted to vitamin A in the body) may actually be better preserved in frozen produce because packaging keeps the vegetables away from light (which destroys carotene). For example, frozen peas typically have about 60% more carotene than 'fresh' peas (that have been exposed to light during their trip to the market and while awaiting sale). The vitamin losses associated with blanching and the thawing/cooking process are similar to those that occur during normal cooking of fresh vegetables. This means that, provided they have been stored and then cooked properly, frozen vegetables provide similar levels of nutrition to fresh vegetables. It is also worth noting that for cooking both frozen and fresh vegetables, microwave cooking and steaming are both superior (in terms of retaining nutritional value) than boiling in a large volume of water.

Market Analysis
Lifestyle changes have also been a major factor in the boom in frozen convenience vegetables, especially those aimed at children. The strongest growth period for the sector was during the 1980s and early 90s due to several social conditions, primarily the growing numbers in working women, which increased the demand for convenience food as they had far less time to spend in the kitchen.

Therefore manufacturers and retailers have developed ranges that mirror the changes in customer requirement. Quick, convenient food that is acceptable to both children and adults is in high demand. Frozen food is now an important part of a family's diet.

Today's consumer is a health-minded label reader who, despite dinner time protests from the kids, understands the benefit of daily, regular vegetable consumption. And when vegetables go out of season, frozen varieties are an excellent year-round, easy-to-prepare and long-keeping alternative that retain all of the vitamins and nutrients of fresh vegetables, providing that the vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness.

In Indian Context
For centuries, Indian consumers have served fresh vegetables with their daily diet of rice or chapattis. Today, although more meat and fish are consumed, vegetables remain an important part of the diet.

But in the recent times, despite the inflation, changing lifestyles and economic development on India are creating a shift in buying patterns. Consumers are discovering they have less time to shop and prepare meals at home. This is especially true for contemporary Indian women, who are entering the workforce in record numbers. Consumers are learning that frozen vegetables are convenient and easy to prepare, and when it comes to storage, they have a longer shelf life. As a result, frozen vegetables purchases are up, creating excellent import opportunities for Indian firms for frozen potatoes, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, and other vegetables.

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