Saturday, August 4, 2012


Global efforts to make people eat more vegetables are intended to provide a healthy diet offering many micro nutrients and phyto chemicals with proven credentials. According to health experts fruits and vegetables must constitute about 50% of the food on one's dining plate to ensure freedom from frequent ailments and common diseases. Still the growth of consumption of these protective foods is hardly perceptible due to many factors. One of the most intimidating reasons is the relative cost of fruits and vegetables which have become non-affordable to more than three fourth of the global population while even those with adequate disposable income prefer to take calorie rich and fatty foods due to their highly palatable nature. Another important reason is the seasonal nature of fruits and vegetables available mostly during summer and their highly perishable nature. Modern technology does have means to extent the life of these fresh produce which commercial processors deploy in ample measures but when it comes to storage at the home level,most kitchens do not have the wherewithal to capitalize on seasonal gluts and low prices due to limited storage facilities at low temperatures. If pundits are to be believed such a situation, unwittingly leading to considerable wastage of foods at the household level, affects the morale of many housewives who are overwhelmed, becoming literally panicky, by the extent of rotting following the buying spree and subsequent inability to protect them. Here is a take on this new development in consumer attitude and behavior.     

"What should be a beautiful and inspiring sight — your kitchen, overflowing with seasonal produce — is sometimes an intimidating tableau of anxiety. The knobbly piles and dirt-caked bunches are overwhelming. Already the peak-ripe multicolored peppers are developing soft spots; the chard is wilting and the race is on. "People often feel overwhelmed in the kitchen, and when all this produce suddenly arrives, they panic," said Ronna Welsh, a chef in Brooklyn who teaches workshops on, among other topics, produce management. Vegetable anxiety can strike anyone at this time of year: C.S.A. subscribers, compulsive farm-stand stoppers and even vegetarians. "All this produce arrives with a deadline," said Benjamin Elwood, a lawyer in St. Paul. "It's like when a DVD comes from Netflix. You feel like you have to watch the movie ASAP in order to get your money's worth, but the pressure makes you not want to watch it."

Though there are some proven household techniques that can preserve fruits and vegetables for some time, the products do not meet with the expectations of the consumers vis-a-vis fresh produce. Steeping preservation, sugar infusion, canning and bottling, dehydration etc change the texture and eating quality dramatically. In contrast commercial players deploy large scale freezing, modified atmosphere storage and packing, irradiation, cold sterilization etc to get extended periods of storage life. Probably it may be a challenge for food technologists to come up with home scale technologies practicable under situations that prevail in kitchens of middle class families which can achieve a few days extra life with least cost. Recent innovation of a simple paper strip impregnated with some plant extracts capable of increasing the life of perishable foods in the refrigerator could be a boon to house wives all over the world. More such innovations can make the life of middle class families much more comfortable without causing the so called "vegetable anxiety syndrome" .


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