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Keeping Up With Maury
Pre-packaged Produce
by Maury Feren

Just the other day I met one of my friends shopping at one of my favorite supermarkets. They had a display of a dozen kinds of bagged lettuce, romaine hearts, special mixes, organic mixed greens, and any number of fresh salad items that sure looked enticing.

My friend picked up one of the mixed salad greens and said, "This will cover me for the entire week. I might just add the leaf mix for variety."

I was astonished. I replied, "I thought you had been listening all those years I've been talking to you. I guess you haven't."

So, let me go at it again. Did you ever cut a cantaloupe or an apple, pear, or watermelon and leave part of it for the next day? You may have wrapped it in cellophane or a plastic bag. How did it taste? For sure it didn't taste like the first day after you broke the vacuum.

"What do you mean, Maury, by breaking the vacuum"?

There is an oxygen process that occurs when you cut a piece of fruit and expose it to the air. This not only affects the taste but there is also a break down in the nutritional value.

Let me explain something very important that you should know every time you pick up a package of bagged vegetables. I'm not talking about frozen packages. That is a separate story. Take note.

Frozen vegetables can retain all of the original nutritional value. That doesn't hold true of the fresh bagged vegetables used for salad or cooking. Here are some of the reasons. First of all, many of those bagged products are not dated. Soł you walk into the market, see all of the displays and decide to have a fresh salad for dinner. It will be easy, open the bag and you have 2 - 3 servings. They have been treated with some form of gas so they retain their freshness. So you assume it is a fresh shipment and that will fulfill your veggie needs for that night.

Now, here is the real problem. You've broken the vacuum. The lettuce is already cut-up. Once the vacuum is broken, there is a deterioration in the in the product you have opened. You will lose 50% immediately. Oh, I know you don't want to hear that. But, it's true.

You've been buying those salads for so long you have felt secure in your packages. You believed you were fulfilling your nutritional needs. Here we go from there. We've just used up a part of that salad bag. You store it overnight in the refrigerator. When you open it on the 2nd day, you lose another 25% or more. My friend was going to use it all week. From the 3rd day on it just becomes greens. It has no nutritional value.

In spite of all that I say, bagged lettuce and all bagged products such as cut-up carrots, celery, and peppers fall into the same category. I don't know why it is so hard to take a head of romaine, add some peppers, cucumbers, avocadoes or whatever else you like to eat and mix it together for a delicious salad. Oh, a head of romaine by itself will save you the cost of an entire salad. You can peel off leaf by leaf, keeping it fresh for a few days.

It is important to remember that a refrigerator is not a storage house. Fruits and vegetables are living, breathing foods. They have a limited amount of shelf life.

Why is it that you take note of a good restaurant when you taste the freshness of their salads?

We have been discussing freshness of foods for many years. It has finally come to pass. Buy local, use fresh farm products because they will be fresh! One of the main reasons is that they are harvested nearby. There is no refrigeration added. Did you know that everyday a product is stored in a refrigerator as well as a freezer, it changes the taste and the nutritional value of the product.

Another good example of wasteful processing is a cut-up pineapple. You are assuming you are getting the best out of the fruit you buy. The same rules apply. You've broken the vacuum and the deterioration begins at once.

I know that my subject is not going to be popular with many people, but I'm using my experience of a lifetime dedicated to the study of those problems. I would hope that I would find some supporters of eating only fresh fruits and vegetables after reading this article. The best way is to check it out just as I did. Break the vacuum, put it in a storage bag and taste the difference.

Remember, I'm still giving you the first day. You'll get some benefit, at least 50%, but you are going to be a loser after that.

When I got through talking to my friend, she put her bagged lettuce package down and walked over to the fresh whole romaine display.

I must mention this. They are now offering in most markets giant heads of lettuce for 99 cents. The lettuce is different. It's great for raising a pyramid and pouring French dressing over it. I mean it tastes fresh and crisp, good for many servings. It has wonderful taste. But alas, head lettuce has no nutritional value. But it sure tastes good!

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