Every year, special sale prices on seasonal fruits in Scottsdale Arizona markets give residents an opportunity to extend the season on popular fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cherries. Prices for one pound containers of strawberries, and 11- 12 ounces containers of blueberries and raspberries and 6 ounce containers of blackberries have been as low as $0.97 each at popular markets like, Albertsons, Bashas’, Safeway and Sprouts.
Black Sweet Cherries (one of 54 varieties of cherries world wide) have been available at Sprouts markets for $0.99/ pound. The peak season for cherries in North America is in June. Sources from Washington, California, and Oregon, feed the Arizona market, and due to the accessibility to cherries from south British Columbia (Canada), the season extends from July to mid August.
With prices like these, Scottsdale residents can stock up the freezer with fresh frozen fruits to extend the season and avoid off season prices that can reach $4 to $5 for the same quantities. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries all freeze well due to the water content. The frozen product will be softer than the fresh version when thawed because as the water in the fruit freezes slowly it breaks down the fruit cell structure. The end product is as good or better than the commercial frozen brands, especially when you consider that in hotter climates like Scottsdale, the chance of a partial thaw in shipping or even transporting frozen product from store to home in a car is higher. A sure sign of a thawing and refreezing of commercial fruits is large ice crystals, chunks of frozen juice or berries frozen in one large mass. Commercially frozen fruits can also have added sugar and calories.When defrosted, frozen cherries have a texture between that of a soft fresh grape and canned cherries, and the pit is easily removed.
A simple 5 step process to freeze berries and cherries:
- Remove any unwanted stems, wash the fruit, and drain the excess water or place the fruit on a paper towel to remove excess water. Raspberries and blackberries tend to hold more water after washing.
- Line an 18″ x 12 ” x 1 ” deep cookie tray with plastic film wrap, aluminum foil or better yet parchment paper, and place the fruit on the tray in a single layer. If berries are placed directly onto the tray, that may stick or pick up metallic tastes from the pan.
- Pace the tray of fruit in the freezer and allow to freeze for 6-8 hours.
- Remove the fruit from the freezer and loosen up the film wrap, aluminum foil or parchment paper under liner. This will also loosen up the fruit.
- Place the loose fruit in freezer bags and place the bags into the freezer. Don’t forget to label and date each bag. They should last 6-8 months frozen, just enough time to get you to the next peak season.
Thaw and serve the desired portion anytime. Any of the frozen fruits (except cherries with pits) can be taken directly from the freezer and placed in a blender to make a “frozen” smoothy … a welcome relief from the triple digit summer temperatures in Scottsdale. Large strawberries work better for “frozen” smoothies when they have been cut in half before freezing because their large water content makes them harder to blend when still frozen.
The amount of nutrients in defrosted fruits depends on how the fruit is handled prior to freezing, stored and how long after defrosting it is used. Berries are an excellent source of fiber, and water-soluble micro nutrients like vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate and potassium. These nutrients supports different physiological processes in your body and folate is important for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the body.
According to one analysis, “a 1 cup serving of unsweetened frozen strawberries contains 52 calories, including 14 g carbohydrates, less than 1 g protein, 221 mg potassium and 61 mg vitamin C. A 1 cup serving of unsweetened frozen blackberries contains 97 calories, including 1.8 g protein, 7.5 g fiber, 16 g carbohydrate, 211 mg potassium, 51 mcg folate, 103 mcg beta-carotene, and 178 mcg lutein and zeaxanthin.”
Sources: http://www.webmd.com/diet/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory “USDA Compiling Food and Nutrition Data for 110 Years”