What is Fresh? Understanding the Term.
We all know when we’re eating fresh food, whether that realization comes right after biting into a perfectly crunchy apple or while tasting the crisp leaves of a just-harvested salad. But, what really makes something fresh?
Our team often finds ourselves wondering:
What are those “Fresh Moments” for consumers? And, how can we be certain that our food is truly the freshest it could be?
To answer these questions, we decided to take a deep dive into the concept of freshness, in order to explore how the word is used, and what it really means.
What does Fresh mean?
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the word Fresh is closely related to “pureness,” “sweetness,” and the quality of being “unsalted.” The context for these relationships was most likely a result of discussing freshwater as opposed to saltwater, and the idea of sweet being the opposite of salty. You can imagine that the distinction here was quite important during the long sea voyages of the 1200s, when the word was first used.
Ultimately, Fresh also came to be used when referring to food, and it took on its modern meaning, which the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines as:
Having its original qualities unimpaired
Not altered by processing
From this information, it’s understandable to see why freshness is such a sought after quality when grocery shopping.
As it happens, these definitions seem to almost be intuitive, or common-sense. For instance, we’ve never heard someone, in all seriousness, claim “Wow, that’s fresh!” after chewing on a loaf of stale, hard bread or dipping a chip into neon-yellow, nacho cheese. Therefore, it’s relatively safe to suggest that no one wants their food to be impure, impaired, or processed to an unreasonable degree, particularly when it comes to their fruits and veggies.
And yet, people still tend to buy sub-par produce—such as lettuce that’s been bathed in chemicals, shipped thousands of miles, and is 1-2 weeks old by the time it even gets to your fridge. It’s no wonder, then, that you end up with slimy, gross greens after just a few days.
At FreshBox Farms, we find that unacceptable. We know that there’s something instantly recognizable about fresh food, and we believe that, as growers, we have a responsibility to provide you with only the best greens. That’s why we farm greens that not only satisfy that sensory experience, but which also meet the definition for true “freshness.” To us, Fresh is more than a brand-name, it’s the foundation of our business.
Now that we’re equipped with an understanding of what the word means, let’s take a look at some of the factors that go into getting you fresh food.
What is Fresh?
While there are many contributing factors that influence the quality of your food, we have found the following to be the most crucial. These Three Pillars of Freshness are:
How was your food grown
How was food handled
Where does food come from?
How was your food grown?
The method of production is undoubtedly one of the most important components that goes into the overall freshness of your food.
At this point, with the widespread popularity of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and the large viewership of films such as Food Inc., you may have heard some horror stories about the food industry.
As our production systems have increasingly become industrialized and centralized, our providers have evolved from being small, local growers to massive factory farms. These types of organizations are primarily focused on churning out huge quantities of fruits and vegetables, going to great lengths to rapidly increase yields.
In theory, volume of production should not be a bad thing to prioritize. However, in order to grow as large as they have, conventional farms have utilized agricultural practices that are implemented at the expense of the produce’s original qualities, and which are often misaligned with the values of the end-consumer. These practices include using questionably-studied GMOs, topsoil-degrading fertilizers, and polluting pesticides and fungicides. Even large-scale Organic farms apply organic pesticides and oftentimes engage in less-than-ideal practices.
All of this can ultimately result in some very not-fresh food.
Why FreshBox is Better
FreshBox Farms grows all of our produce at our indoor hydroponic farm, using Controlled Environment Agriculture.
In effect, this means that we offer our plants exactly what they need to thrive, and closely monitor the elements that affect their health and quality. As a result, we have no pests, blights, or bad soil conditions that require harsh supplements. Therefore, we never apply nasty chemicals, and do not use GMOs or other growing practices that our consumers mistrust.
What this means for you is that your food most certainly “has its original qualities unimpaired.”
How was your food handled?
There can often be a number of steps involved with getting produce from the farm to your local grocery store. This might include harvesting, processing, packaging, shipping, and more. Along that journey, your food is handled by an array of individuals.
All of this is important to note because each step of the process can impact the freshness of your produce. To highlight one example, more than 70% of consumers buy salad products that are Ready-to-Eat or Triple Washed, and a variety of Chopped or Pre-Cut salad blends are also sold in stores. These products have all been processed in some way.
The processing can affect freshness in a few different ways. First off, the Ready-to-Eat, Triple Washed, and Chopped/Pre-Cut blends have all, very likely, been bathed in some of chemical cleaner. This is usually a diluted version of a chlorine solution or bleach, much like what you’d use to clean a pool (To learn more about this read our article on Triple Washing). When you hear someone say that their lettuce tastes a bit “off,” this may be attributed to some kind of chemical aftertaste.
Moreover, food-borne illness is a very real concern when handling produce. Each additional person that touches your food before it gets to you introduces a new opportunity for cross-contamination. This concern grows even larger when greens are chopped or cut in some way. Doing so increases the surface area that bacteria and other pathogens can latch onto, and hide in, and contributes to a bigger risk of contaminated produce.
When considering what freshness actually means to you, be sure to think about these steps, and how your food may have been altered by processing or have had its original qualities impaired.
Why FreshBox is Better
FreshBox Farms’ greens are cultivated in an ultra-clean environment, and handled with a great degree of care. We pride ourselves on growing you the cleanest greens possible, and choose not to process our products in any way.
Also, our farm team members always ensure that they’re adhering to the very best agricultural practices while harvesting, packing, and shipping, in order to prevent any type of contamination (See FreshBox Farms’ certifications for more information about our high standards). Lastly, we don’t bathe our plants in any type of chemical solution, so you never need to worry about that gross aftertaste!
Where does your food come from?
The last Pillar of Freshness relates to location. It’s pretty clear that consumers increasingly care about where their food was grown or produced. And that’s a good thing!
And yet, significantly over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of our fruit come from California or another country of origin. There’s a good chance that the lettuce you see on shelves was shipped from thousands of miles away. Not only is this environmentally unfriendly, because of the resources needed for its transportation, but the produce also takes a long time to get to you. As a result, most packaged greens are 7-14 days old by the time they even arrive at your local store!
This means two things for you. The first is that your produce’s shelf life has already been decreased by one to two weeks. Ever wonder why your greens get mushy and go bad after just a few days? This factor is likely the culprit. The second is that those veggies you bought in order to be healthy are likely losing their nutrients as they age!
When you ask us what fresh means, we personally don’t think about old food, shipped from the other side of the country.
Why FreshBox is Better
FreshBox Farms sells to local retailers within a 100-mile radius of our farm. Because of this, our greens are always stocked on shelves within 24 hours of harvest. We grow for our neighbors because we believe that it’s the right thing to do, and we can guarantee that our customers are receiving fresh products.