Fruits and vegetables require proper handling, preparation
and storage in order to take full advantage of their many nutrients.
Rinsing all produce in potable water is the first important step. Even fruits
and vegetables with skins, like bananas or oranges, should be washed in order
to remove any bacteria, pesticides or insects, says Ellen Muehlhoff, a senior
nutrition officer in FAOs Food and Nutrition Division. Soaking fruits and
vegetables, however, is never a good idea. Water can dissolve a number of
key nutrients, like vitamin C, says Muehlhoff.
Cooking, on the
other hand, can help break down plant cell walls and make certain nutrients more
available. Steaming is actually one of the best ways to prepare fruits and
vegetables, since vitamins dont come into direct contact with the water,
Cutting produce into large pieces (or cooking them whole)
can also reduce the loss of nutrients by limiting the surface area. As a
rule, try to minimize the time, temperature and amount of water used when cooking
fruits and vegetables, she says.
Since the majority of fruits and
vegetables have short growing seasons, processing and preserving techniques can
be used to make produce last longer. FAO recommends employing small-scale processing
methods such as drying, chemical preservation and heat processing shortly after
fruits and vegetables have been harvested.
There are any number of traditional
processed fruit and vegetable products that are made in homes around the globe.
In Asia, for instance, fruit leathers, fruit pastes, pickles and chutneys are
quite common, and in Africa and Latin America, there are a wide range of dried
chips, dried and powdered leaves, fruit beers and other fermented fruit and vegetable
The Information Network on Post-harvest Operations (INPhO)
Web site features a cookbook with almost 800 recipes for the traditional preparation
of a range of local products from around the world.
FAO Media Office
(+39) 06 570 53625