I made an interesting discovery this week. I had planned to be away for five days starting this weekend, and my daughter was going to take care of the parrots for me while I was gone. Since she works full time, I decided to simplify things and buy frozen vegetables for her to serve to the birds. Normally, I buy fresh, often organic, with the exception of things like Lima beans, which my birds love, and out-of-the-pod peas.
My plans were unexpectedly cancelled, and I was sitting on a freezer full of a variety of veggies, more than I would normally be able to use. So I scrapped my plans to go to the supermarket for fresh veggies and decided to serve up the frozen. To my great surprise, my finicky birds are showing more interest in the frozen veggies than they have ever have in the fresh ones.
Last night, I forgot to thaw out a ration of veggies for this mornings breakfast. I put the frozen food into their dishes, and decided to go with scrambled eggs instead, but put the food into their cages for thawing. I was very surprised to find my umbrella cockatoo eating the still frozen veggies. Whatever! He’s eating them…even if they do stick to his tongue.
I’ve spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out why they would prefer the frozen veggies. The only thing I have come up with is the additional moisture provided during the thawing process. I don’t know, and I don’t much care. They like them.
The general understanding has always been that fresh is better than frozen, but that isn’t necessarily so. In fact, a frozen vegetable can be fresher than a fresh vegetable. How is this possible? Many vegetables are flash frozen within a day of picking. Many fresh vegetables arrive at the market within days of picking as they are shipped from other parts of the country depending on the season.
A fresh vegetable will lose 25% of its original nutritional value for each day that it sits following picking. I did the math for you: a fresh vegetable purchased on Monday will contain only slightly more than 30% of its original nutritional value by Thursday, and that is going on the assumption that it had been picked the day before, which it probably wasn’t. Who knows how long it has been sitting in a bin at the supermarket before being purchased? Refrigeration will slow the process, but only somewhat, and only if stored correctly. This info comes from a nutritionist. The FDA say vegetables have a lesser rate of decline following picking. My money is on the nutritionist’s information.
The bottom line is that I have found a way to get more veggies into my pickiest parrots. That’s all that counts to me. I will be providing both fresh and frozen from here on out.
Here are six storage and cooking tips to get the most nutrition out of your fresh veggies:
- Keep your refrigerator temperature below 40 degrees and your freezer below 0 degrees.
- Keep your vegetables at the coldest possible temperature in your crisper bin.
- Broccoli, spinach and salad greens last longer in humidity. I keep mine tented in produce bags. I allow the bag to fill with air and twist the bag shut at the end. I also store my carrots, with the greens attached, this way.
- Allow fruits to ripen at room temperature and the refrigerate right away.
- Try to buy your vegetables in smaller portions, more often. Immediately freeze whatever portion you can’t use.
- Don’t boil your vegetables – steam, roast, stir-fry, grill or microwave instead. You are throwing away water soluble nutrients with the cooking water.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.