I have discovered astronaut food….freeze-dried fruits and veggies…and they are amazing!
I am always on the lookout for great tasting, low-calorie, low sugar, all natural snacks. While in Trader Joe’s (my fav hag out) I noticed small bags of freeze-dried strawberries. Under the ingredients it listed “strawberries”.
Hmm….no added sugar or sulfites or nitrates? No!…just strawberries!
It turns out, freeze-dried food has the exact nutritional content of fresh food, only without the water. An entire 1.2 ounce bag of freeze-dried strawberries, which was about 1 1/2 cup, contained 120 calories, no fat, no salt, and 240% RDA for vitamin C. And more importantly, they tasted great and were very satisfying! They weigh nothing and are crisp but melt in your mouth and are extremely sweet. You may have tasted these in your strawberry breakfast cereal , like Special K Red Berries.
You can use the freeze-dried fruits in cereals or oatmeal, you can cook with them, put them in cookies and breads, and put them in smoothies. They also make a terrific snack on their own. I looked up some companies that distribute freeze-dried foods to see if I could get more and also to see what other foods were available.
I was amazed to see a great variety including blueberries, pineapples, apples, apricots, mangos, peaches, raspberries, and bananas. I also saw cottage cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and scrambled eggs with bacon. (…not what I would get, but interesting to think about)
The site also sells disaster kits. I did some browsing in the “water purification” section….they sell fascinating gadgets that will purify any water so it is safe to drink. (I can put it next to my solar powered radio)
For those of you who are avid campers or survivalists (preppers as they are called these days) this is old news. After all, freeze-dried foods have been around for decades, and some of you have been eating this stuff on the trails or creating your own fallout shelters with cases of the stuff for years.
It seems like Chicken Little has found a voice lately with the economy tanking and everyone bracing for the next 9/11. So much so, that the major freeze-dried food manufacturers can’t produce enough to meet the demand. There is currently a 45 day wait on certain freeze-dried items.
But the purpose of this post is not to elicit fear about the next natural or man-made disaster. It’s simply to say “freeze-dried foods are pretty cool and taste great and have everything that fresh food has.” They look expensive at first glance, because a 1.2 oz bag of these sweet nothings is $4.00 US. But that’s about the same price as what a pint (16 oz dry) of fresh would cost me at the local market today, and re-hydrated would yield about the same amount (13.2 oz) given the 11 to 1 re-hydration ratio. Which is also about the same price as frozen. But the freeze dried are oh-so-different from fresh or frozen.
Here is a run down on some facts:
- Freeze dried foods have a shelf life of up to 25 years in a sealed can, and up to 6 months if the can has been opened, but remains closed.
- freeze-dried foods contain no additives, preservatives, or extra ingredients
- unlike canned foods, there is no added salt and no leaching of BPA from the can lining
- freeze dried foods are practically weightless so they’re great on a hike or when traveling
- they are compact so they store nicely.
- to re-hydrate, just place in hot water for a few minutes or cold water for 20 – 45 minutes
- they are identical to fresh foods in anti-oxidant and nutritional value
- organic choices are limited, but available
- you can cook with freeze dried foods, just add veggies at the end as they are already “cooked”.
- freeze dried foods don’t stain clothing (unless you re-hydrate and rub them on you)
I tried the freeze dried strawberries and bananas. The bananas were a bit higher in calories (330 calories for 1.2 ounces), but tasted very good and were very filling. I would imagine the sweet peas would make a great snack as well, so I ordered them along with a can of strawberries and blueberries. The “cans” contain approximately 6 ounces of freeze-dried food which translates to approximately 6 pounds of fresh. The cost of each can is $17.00- $30.00 depending on what you order. The strawberries were $23.00/can.
A quick bit on the difference between dehydrated (or dried food ) and freeze-dried food.
Dehydration is a process where the water is removed from the food by slow heat. This can be in an oven, by the sun, or wind. It can be done at home with a dehydrator, but it is time consuming. Dehydrated foods are lightweight, but contain a bit more water than freeze dried, so their texture is a bit chewy (we’ve all had raisins, right?) Some commercially dehydrated foods have added sulfur or preservatives in them. Dried food is a bit more compact than freeze dried, but the re-hyrdation time if longer.
Freeze-drying is a process where the food is flash frozen, then placed in a vacuum chamber where the water is removed by evaporating the ice at temps as low as -50 degrees F. This retains the foods appearance and shape. Freeze-dried foods re-hydrate in minutes–much faster than dehydrated, and the food regains it’s original texture and flavor. Foods like cheese and ice cream can undergo this process as well as prepared foods like lasagna and cheesecake. But because of the process, it is more expensive. The flavor is superior to dried, as the sugar and flavor is concentrated in the drying process.
I don’t think freeze-dried foods are meant to replace fresh, but for a snack idea or for your emergency stash, or for hiking or traveling, it works.
Consider it just another option you have when looking at nutritious, low calorie foods that are also convenient. Just the convenience of having six pounds of strawberries sitting in your pantry, taking up the same space as a coffee can, for you to use in recipes, or to grab and put in your pocket for later is fun to think about.
And let’s face it….you secretly want to eat like an astronaut.
Here are suppliers if you are interested: