Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in their fresh state are a complete package from nature. They contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, natural flavours, natural colours, naturally occurring sugars (including fructose or fruit sugar and glucose) and fibre (natural soluble and insoluble fibre). Each processing step to alter the natural form of fruits and vegetables destroys and changes the natural state, removing and altering the natural components. For example, some water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins will be lost during processing when they come into contact with water. This may happen when vegetables are steamed, boiled or blanched in water. Even steps we take in home kitchens can have an impact, for example, removal of the outer skin of a fruit or vegetable before eating will remove the important nutrients found in the layer just under the skin as well as the insoluble fibre in the peel that contributes to gut health.
What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? Technically speaking a fruit is the seed-bearing portion of a plant that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. Fruits are fleshy, contain the seed of the plant and can be eaten raw. Examples of fruits are your typical and easily identified apple, bananas, orange etc but there are also some vegetables that are traditionally thought of as a vegetable including tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini and capsicums. These are considered fruits under this definition.
Fruits are added to food and beverage products in many ways using ripe or unripe fruit. They are added to products not just for flavour or as a visual but also for colour, texture, sweetness and as a source of vitamins and nutrition. They can be added to processed foods as fresh whole, pieces or segments or as further processed products. Fruits can be air or freeze dried, dehydrated, canned, frozen, or manufactured into other further processed fruit products. These include leathers, jams, pickles, pastes, zests, chips, juices, nectars, fruit preparations, purees, couli’s, concentrates, extracts, oils and flavours, fibres and flours. Fruits and their products are also used to sweeten food and beverage products. For more information on this please see the Other Sweeteners section on the Sugars page.
Vegetables are any other part of the plant such as fungi (Mushrooms), flowers (broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini flower), buds (capers), pods (peas, legumes, green beans), stems and bulbs (celery, leek, spring onion,) roots and tubers (bamboo shoot, carrots, parsnip), and leaves (lettuce, spinach, watercress). Vegetables are added to food and beverage products for a variety of reasons including health, colour, appearance, fibre, flavour, texture and nutritional content.
Fresh, frozen, dehydrated, air or freeze-dried vegetables are used in food products in a multitude of ways. Different formats are available including chips, pickles, juices, concentrates, pieces, pastes, purees, powders, fibres, flours, flavours and oils, proteins, colours and starches.
Fruit & Vegetable Processing & Products –
Fruits and vegetables are processed in different ways to make foods and beverages that are either ready to eat (such as canned or frozen) or that will be used as ingredients to be added to processed foods. Some of the processes fruits and vegetables go through are listed below –
Puree – Pureed fruits and vegetables are made by mashing, grinding, liquefying, or blending cooked ingredients into a smooth paste. Pureed fruit products are naturally high in the fruit sugar fructose and they are commonly used in children and health products as a natural source of sugar. Fruit puree’s can also be found as snacks (squeeze packs and tubs), frozen cubes for addition to shakes and smoothies and are added to yoghurts, sorbets, ice blocks, ice cream and table sauces such as BBQ sauce. Pureed vegetable products include tomato puree’s, paste’s and passata as well as dip products such as smooth avocado and hummus dips.
Canning – Canning involves sealing prepared fruits and vegetables into an air-tight container with either a brine (often containing salt, sugar and food acids for vegetables), or a sugar syrup or reconstituted fruit juice, nectar or fruit puree (with or without flavours for sweet products such as fruits). They are then sealed and then placed under high pressure and heat to sterilise. The liquids added to the canned products perform many functions during the canning process. They help to transfer heat and pressure during sterilisation and are used to help create an environment that is undesirable for bacterial, yeast and mould growth. This can be done using high salt or sugar levels and increasing the acidity of the product. Some products such as fruits, beans and legumes may also have firming agents added depending on how soft the product becomes after the sterilization process. For further information please see the links below –
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – A range of fruits and vegetable products are available in your Supermarket freezer. To prepare fruits and vegetables to be frozen, they are washed, and where needed peeled, diced or chopped. They are then frozen either raw, blanched, flash fried, fully cooked and frozen. Frozen fruit and vegetables are available as single varieties or mixed, plain or seasoned, battered, sauced or crumbed. This makes them quick and easy to prepare allowing them to be either reheated, baked, boiled, fried or steamed and the range is extensive and ever changing. Frozen fruit and vegetable products are usually prepared and individually quick frozen to preserve the integrity and as much nutritional content of the product as possible. For further information please see the links below –
Freeze Dried Fruits & Vegetables – To prepare freeze dried products fresh fruits and vegetables are washed, peeled and where needed sliced. The product is placed into a freeze-drying chamber where a combination of temperature and pressure is used to turn the available water molecules into vapour, dehydrating the product. Freeze drying provides a unique texture to the finished product, crunchy and light without affecting the nutritional content of the raw material. Fruits and vegetables preserved in this manner have a very long shelf life, are light to transport and easy to use. Whole freeze-dried fruit & vegetable pieces can also be ground into a powder form for use. For further information please see the link below –
Dehydrated or Dried Whole or Pieces – Fruits and vegetables are dehydrated by removing the original water content of the product. They can be dehydrated by sun drying, air drying, or by freeze drying (above). Sun drying is a process that has been used for centuries and involves layering the prepared fruit on trays and leaving in the sun to dry. Air drying involves placing prepared whole fruits (such as berries) or cut pieces across trays into a dehydrator and blowing warm, dry air over the surface of the product to evaporate the moisture. Dehydrated whole or pieces of fruits and vegetables have a high energy content, long shelf life and are used in products such as trail mixes, cereals, snack bars, confectionary, bakery products, puddings, cakes, frozen and chilled dairy desserts, stuffings, meatballs, burgers, sausages, cheese’s, yoghurts the list goes on.
Dehydrated or dried fruits and vegetables can easily be re-hydrated by adding water and allowing time for the moisture to be absorbed. The ingredients used in the manufacture of dried fruits and vegetables can include flavours, additional sugars, preservatives and antioxidants (202, 220, 223, 224) which are added to preserve the colour of the fruit. Vegetable oils are also applied lightly to the outer surface of the dried product to prevent sticking in the packet. You may also find when looking at your ingredient listings that dried fruits may also have flavours added to them. The natural flavour compounds found in fresh fruits and vegetables can be quite volatile and are easily lost during processing, especially those that involve heat. Flavours can be added back to fruits and vegetables to provide the flavour intensity lost during processing. In some cases, fruits are also flavoured with a different fruit flavour before drying to mimic a specific type of fruit piece when used in the finished product.
Fruit pieces are also commonly used in products. These are not whole or smaller pieces of fruits and vegetables, rather diced pieces of a firm fruit or vegetable gel that is used to mimic fruit. Ingredients in these pieces can include different types of fruit puree or concentrates, a gelling agent such as pectin, fibres, flavours, colours, sugars and acidity regulators.
Powders, Flakes, and Granules – Fruit and vegetable powders, flakes, and granules are used in all sorts of food and beverage applications. They are made from fruits and vegetables either by making a puree and drying this on a drum or roller dryer, by spray drying or by grinding dried fruits and vegetables into a powder form. The powder can easily be reconstituted into a paste or puree by adding water. The most common vegetable powders used as a base flavour in many savoury products include onion, garlic and tomato. Common foods containing fruit and vegetable powders include powdered soups, rice and pasta side dishes, vegetable pastas (e.g. spinach fettucine), stock powders and cubes, confectionary, beverage mixes, meal replacement shakes, superfood powders, baby foods, children’s snack foods, coating systems, marinades, glazes the list goes on.
A good example of a versatile powdered vegetable is Potato. Dried potato and sweet potato is available in flour, flakes, granules, powders or starches. These ingredients are commonly used as the basis for instant mashed potato mixes, manufactured gnocchi, formed potato based snack foods, soups, noodles, gluten free wraps and bakery items.
Fruit & Vegetable Juices and Juice Concentrates – commonly used in beverage applications, fruit and vegetable juices and their concentrates are also used as ingredients in a wide variety of products for flavour, colour and sweetness. Juices are produced either by packing the juice from squeezing fresh fruits and vegetables, or from reconstituting Fruit or Vegetable concentrates. The juice is then pasteurised to extend the shelf life. These juices can be further processed in concentrates by evaporating some of the additional water. Concentrates are added to all sorts of food and beverage products including juices, juice drinks, cordials, yoghurts, ice creams, sorbets, tomato sauce and other condiments, bakery fruit fillings, confectionary the list goes on. For more information please see the Fruit/Vegetable Concentrates section on the Beverage page.
Other Ingredients from Fruits & Vegetables Include–
Colours – Colouring Foods are food ingredients also used for colour purposes. An example of this would be turmeric which is used as a flavour, can be consumed by itself and provides colour as well. Colour Food ingredients are commonly sourced from fruits, vegetables and other materials and are used in all types of food and beverage applications. Available in powder, liquid and concentrated forms, nature provides a rainbow of natural colours in all shades of black, red, blue, orange, yellow, green and purple. As in nature though, these colours have their limitations in processed foods and beverages. When using natural colours, pH, temperature, light and storage can impact the shade, intensity and visual appeal of a product over time. As a general rule, you should expect that the colours you obtained from natural sources are not as bright and intense as when using artificial colours.
Protein powders – Proteins are classed either as complete or incomplete proteins. Complete protein sources contain appropriate levels of all 9 essential amino acids required for the human body to fully utilise the protein being consumed. Incomplete proteins are those that don’t contain or have low levels of these amino acids. Animal based protein sources such as eggs or whey protein tend to supply complete proteins. Proteins from vegetable sources may not contain adequate levels of these 9 essential amino acids and they are often blended together to supply the levels needed.
There are a large range of protein powders available from vegetable sources. They are used as ingredients to boost the protein levels in a range of food and beverage products. These include high protein powdered and liquid meal replacement shakes and bars, protein bars and balls, low carb bars, cereals, muesli bars, meat & smallgoods, dairy products and high protein bakery items. They are also used in vegetarian analogues or meat free products such as vegetarian burgers and non-dairy milk beverages. Vegetarian based protein powders are also used as a protein source in products such as powdered sports supplements and liquid shakes used by athletes and body builders for muscle gain. Some of the vegetables sources of protein powder are listed below –
Soy – Powdered soy protein ingredients include Isolates which contain around 90% protein and soy protein concentrates containing around 70% protein. The whole soybean can also be used to manufacture products and is used in soy based beverages. Soy has a beany flavour that can be hard to mask but it’s one of the most popular and common vegetable proteins sources. In some products other ingredients can also be added to formulations containing soy to help mask this earthy beany note and to make the flavour more palatable. For more information on Soy Protein please see – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soy_protein
Rice – Rice protein is made from brown rice and can have a strong chalky flavour. It’s commonly blended with other protein powders. Rice and pea proteins are commonly blended together as rice is low in lysine and high in cysteine and methionine.
Pea – Pea protein Isolate contains around 80% protein and all 9 essential amino acids. It is high in Lysine and low in cysteine and methionine and is often blended with rice protein to provide a more balanced amino acid profile.
Hemp – Hemp seeds and their products have only recently been given the red light to be sold and consumed here in Australia. Please note Hemp products for consumption do not contain high enough levels of THC to provide an affect on the body if consumed. Hemp seeds contain around 25% protein and hemp protein is manufactured from the hemp seed. It is available as an isolate and is a complete protein source. I’m sure we will see more and more processed food and beverage products using Hemp proteins in the near future. For more information on Hemp protein please see –
Wheat – Wheat protein isolate and wheat protein concentrate are powdered products manufactured by wet processing wheat flour. The wheat flour is wet milled and the proteins present in the flour, being Glutenin and Gliadin are developed into Gluten in the presence of water. The gluten is then further processed into wheat protein isolate which typically contains 90% protein, or Concentrate which typically contains 75% protein. The finished powder is rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. It’s most commonly used by body builders in supplements for muscle growth or for adding to low protein flours to boost the gluten levels for bakery products and pasta manufacture.
Vegetable Fibres – Vegetable fibres are used to hold excess liquid, help bind and emulsify moisture, fats and oils and to provide texture and viscosity to products. Fruit and Vegetable fibres can include products produced by drying fruit pulp to those that are further refined and contain just the fibre component without colour or flavour. The range of fruit and vegetable fibres available include –
Fruits – Apple, Blueberry, Cranberry, Grape, Plum, Raspberry, Citrus etc.
Vegetable – Pumpkin, Potato, Soy, Chicory Root or Inulin
Plant – Bamboo, Cellulose,
Flours – There are a range of vegetable and fruit based flours that have been used by different cultures around the world for centuries. These include –
Potato Flour – Made from whole peeled potatoes, potato flour is different to potato starch. Potato flour is commonly used in gluten free bakery and can be used to thicken liquid products such as custards, gravies and stews. It can’t be used to make bread by itself as it contains no gluten but can be combined with wheat flour to produce loaves and rolls.
Legume Flour – Legume flours are becoming more popular offering a gluten free, high protein alternative to wheat flour. They can also be used to thicken and to help bind foods. One of the most popular legume flours is chick pea flour, otherwise known as Besan or Gram Flour which is used in India and its surrounding countries as a staple food. For more information please see the following links –
Soy flour is high in protein and nutrients. It is used in combination with other protein based flours in products to improve their nutritional content. It contains around 50% protein.
Corn Flour – In Australia cornflour can either be –
- Cornmeal – made from ground corn, cornmeal is a coarse corn flour available in fine, medium and coarse grades.
- Corn Starch is also known as corn flour but is essentially the starch component of the corn dried and ground into a flour. In Australia corn starch can also be made from wheat starch. Please check your labelling.
- Masa flour or dough is fine cornmeal that has been soaked in an alkaline solution. It is used to make traditional Mexican and Latin American foods such as tortillas, tamales etc.
Banana Flour – Traditionally used in Jamaica and Africa banana flour is made from green bananas and is high in resistant starch and inulin. For more information please see the links below –
Coconut Flour – Coconut flour is becoming very popular in a range of baking applications. It is made by grinding and drying the flesh or pulp of the coconut that is left after making coconut milk or cream. It contains a very high level of fibre in the form of Inulin and has a higher absorbency compared to wheat flour so cannot be used as a direct substitute in recipes.
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