I’ve conducted over 100 food storage evaluations over the last year and a half, and while there are a myriad of issues and common errors that many make, one thing that concerns me the most is a lack of emphasis on the storage of fruits and vegetables. These items are critical in fulfilling the body’s need for fiber, vitamins and minerals. The best weapon you can have in an emergency is your health and fruits and veggies are a key to providing this. A focus on fruits and veggies has a great deal of lifesaving merit.
Given that many of us utilize fresh or frozen produce, we tend to overlook the need for canned or freeze dried sources to meet those nutritional needs in the event of an emergency. We’re constantly pummeled with “wheat and water” admonitions for food storage, but we rarely hear the need to be mindful of fruits and veggies. So how many servings do you need and in what form should you store it? Given the variety of emergencies that can affect us, relying solely on a small garden or what’s in our freezer to provide us with this vital nutrition is not a good game plan. You really can’t afford to have this vital source of nutrition off of your radar. You simply must focus on having 3 servings a day of fruits and veggies, especially during an emergency.
I’m a big fan of freeze dried fruits and veggies. In number ten cans, quality freeze-dried produce will last 20 to 30 years. Even better, if you are able to get it on sale, it needn’t be something that you obtain just for emergencies. For example, I regularly acquire freeze dried spinach and diced red and green peppers. When I’m making an omelet, I take a couple of spoonfuls of spinach and mix it in. Not only have I saved myself time by not cleaning and cutting the veggies, but this way I know that I won’t have to throw veggies out later. When I’m making a spaghetti sauce or a casserole, I simply add a dash of my peppers for flavor. This is actually a LOT less expensive than if I were to go to the store, pay for the produce, clean it, dice it, and then hope that I’ve got more uses for the remainder before it goes bad. The same holds true for fruits. In fact, I regularly find myself munching on the fruits out of the can without even the need to reconstitute them. They are a delightful snack this way. Freeze-dried pineapple, blueberries, apples and strawberries are yummy! And they are much easier on your blood sugar than the sweets you will inevitably crave in an emergency.
Understand that there’s a big difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Dehydrated fruits and veggies lose the majority of their nutritional value, not to mention that they don’t always taste the best. Whereas freeze-dried produce keeps 90% of its nutritional value, and with an easy bit of reconstituting can be indiscernible from fresh produce in your dishes. In my opinion the taste of freeze-dried goods are just as good, if not better than the real thing. It’s almost like the freeze-drying process compounds the flavors.
Next, canned fruits and veggies. I don’t mind canned fruits, but personally, I’m not a big fan of some veggies from the can. I love fresh produce and the canned goods just don’t cut it for me. That said, I’ve learned to live with them in a casserole or when mixed in with something else. But I’m also mindful that in an emergency, the nutritional value is critical for those not-so-green goodies in the can. Obviously, taking on the lost art of canning is a GREAT idea. Chances are that the canners your grandmothers used still work perfectly today, but other canners have progressed significantly in our time that provide more safety features. Plus, Mason jars and lids are very, very affordable. Learning how to can allows you the luxury of making the most of a great sale on produce! There’s very little that you can’t can and put away for a rainy day. It’s not nearly as time-consuming as you may remember as a child thanks to the advance technology available. Consider that you can also can fruits and veggies in a solar oven without heating up your kitchen or being fearful of the hissing that your canner makes. I’ve even known women in Arizona and Texas who have canned their produce simply by putting it in jars out on their hot patio. Now how easy is that!?
Lastly, sprouting. Yes, wheat is a starch, but when you sprout it (as well as other grains and legumes) it becomes a high quality fresh vegetable! Consider also that in the event of an emergency, water will be a highly valuable commodity so using large amounts of water to preserve your vegetable garden may not be realistic. However, sprouting is very easy to do, indoors or out, and it requires a minimal amount of water. Most sprouted items increase in nutritional value by over 500%! So while you’re storing up your wheat, be sure to consider the supplies necessary to sprout your wheat into a good supply of vegetable source as well. When your wheat does sprout, it’s also a great indicator that your wheat is in fine condition for consumption. If it doesn’t sprout, it means that it’s lost a lot of its nutrients during storage. While it can still be used for flatbreads and such, it’s not going to do much more than fill you up when you’re hungry.
Word to the wise: don’t forget to store your fruits and veggies!
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