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Were Flash-Frozen Vegetables Invented or Discovered?

Updated on September 5, 2013

Frozen vegetables as good as fresh

Flash-freezing creates smaller ice crystals that do not damage cell membranes the way larger ice crystals do. Intact cell membranes prevent mushiness.
Flash-freezing creates smaller ice crystals that do not damage cell membranes the way larger ice crystals do. Intact cell membranes prevent mushiness. | Source

The flash-freeze method

Would you say that it was invented or discovered?

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As a naturalist, Birdseye knew enough biology to recognize that the freezing occurred so quickly that water inside the individual cells did not have time to separate and form individual crystals of ice. Instead, the cells were frozen as-is, or flash-frozen. When the meat was thawed out, it was not mushy and watery with melting ice crystals. The individual cells were intact and the food retained its original flavor and texture.

Eventually posted back to the lower 48, Birdseye attempted to replicate the Eskimo method. With a bucket of salt water, ice and a fan, he was eventually able to flash-freeze not only meat, but also vegetables. The vegetables did not develop ice crystals either, but retained most of their original pre-freeze turgidity. We now know that flash-frozen fruits and vegetables also retain more vitamins.

Birdseye was far more than an enterprising naturalist. He was also an entrepreneurial inventor and industrial engineer. He devised a method of packaging his foodstuffs in waxed cardboard boxes and speeding the process by freezing under high pressure. His assembly line and other inventions were patented and, in 1929, sold for $22 million. In 1930, the first commercially available flash-frozen foods were marketed to the public.

It started with ice fishing

Fresh out of college, Clarence Birdseye went to work for the government as a naturalist and was assigned to Alaska. He had some experience as a taxidermist and liked to cook, both of which skills likely contributed to his observations. Birdseye the taxidermist took note of a peculiar method in use by locals to preserve fish and meat. Birdseye the chef appreciated the fact that caught fish could keep for months and still taste as if it were fresh.

Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man
Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man

Biography published in 2012. Available in Kindle, paperback, hardcover or audio.

 

The Eskimos preserved fish immediately after being caught and filleted—or other meat while still quite fresh. They immersed the dressed meat in seawater, which has a freezing point below that of fresh water. It was then exposed to a fierce wind while being splashed with water so as to draw the “warmth” out through evaporation. With the aid of additional ice chunks, the provisions froze solid very quickly.

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    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 7 years ago from Canada

      You don't have to fast-forward; it starts at the right spot. I put in a "deep link" by adding "#t=42m00s" at the end of the YouTube link, so the video starts up at the right time.

    • Howard S. profile image
      Author

      Howard S. 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia

      Thanks, Pierre, and welcome to HubPages. This is a very interesting 2-hr video. Fast-forward to the 42-minute mark for nearly three minutes of documentary about the discovery of flash-freezing.

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 7 years ago from Canada

      Clarence Birdseye was mentioned in a scientific documentary ABSOLUTE ZERO, about man's quest for cold and freezing and the "how low can you go?" scientific race to get to Absolute Zero. You can even watch a segment about him by going to minute 42 in this YouTube video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2jSv8PDDwA#t=42m00...

      (about 42:00 - 44:45)

    • Stina Caxe profile image

      Cristina 7 years ago from Virginia

      This is fascinating information. I enjoyed learning about the Eskimos freezing meat.

    • cheapsk8chick profile image

      cheapsk8chick 7 years ago

      Up & awesome! Very interesting information!

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