Shake frozen peas, cut asparagus ends

BURNING QUESTIONS

May 16, 2007|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,Newsday

On a recent afternoon spent food shopping and cooking with my dad, he asked me some really good questions. Two of them were: Why did you shake that bag of frozen peas? And why did you cut the ends of the asparagus when we got home?

I shook the bag of peas to discern its shipping history. Back in the olden days, peas and other vegetables were frozen into a block of ice, but now the industry standard is for IQF, or individually quick freezing. IQF peas are placed on a conveyor belt and then rolled into a very cold chamber, where they are instantly frozen while still remaining separate. Then they are bagged.

If the bag is handled properly on its journey to the market, the peas remain separate. If you shake the bag and feel big chunks of frozen-together peas, the bag probably has defrosted and been refrozen, compromising the quality of the peas (or corn or carrots or what have you).

I cut off the ends of the asparagus to preserve the vegetable's freshness and extend its shelf life. Once cut, asparagus stems should be kept in water because the spears will continue to draw water up their lengths to maintain freshness.

Ideally, retailers should keep asparagus bunches standing up in a half-inch or so of water or in trays laid with wet toweling. As soon as I get home from the market, I cut off the bottom inch or so of the asparagus spears and place them in a narrow tub of water, loosely cover them with a plastic bag, and put them in the refrigerator. If you plan to keep them for more than a day, trim off a bit more of the stems and change the water.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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