Thursday, April 2, 2020

Nature's Turn Foods

I'm always looking for ways to add to or upgrade my food options for my Get Home Bag (GHB), my pantry, and my cache at work. All three are stored food that I rotate through as I eat it, and they all require foods that are filling, nutritious, shelf-stable (no refrigeration), and well-packaged. Wandering the aisles of my local dollar store, I found some freeze-dried fruits to try and here's what I found.
  • Made and packaged by a company called Nature's Turn, there were four different offerings; peaches, apples, strawberries, and bananas. I grabbed the strawberries to test and went back for the others the next day. They were out of the peaches by the time I got back.
  • At a buck a bag, with each bag containing 15g of dried fruit, the price was fair. 15g is about half an ounce, which doesn't sound like much until you remember that this is freeze-dried and not just dried fruit: freeze-dried means less than 10% water instead of the more than 80% water of whole fruit, so it weighs a lot less than you'd think. Each bag is equal to 2 apples, 10 strawberries, or 2 bananas.
  • Freeze-drying fruit gives it a unique texture. It looks like styrofoam until you add water (or pop it in your mouth) and it reconstitutes into roughly fresh fruit. One of the early generations of military MREs used a lot of freeze-dried products; I enjoyed the “strawberry styrofoam” back then and this brand is very similar. The banana chips were not the typical rock-hard dried bananas you usually find in stores, but instead were light and airy and easy to bite into.
  • The flavors of the fruit survive the freeze-drying very well. The strawberries were sweet, the apples were some form of Fuji apples (yes, some of us are apple snobs), and the bananas held their flavor better than the dried banana chips that you usually see in stores.
  • The packaging is sturdy multi-layered material. Foil-lined plastic keeps air and light out and is thick enough to throw in a pack without too much worry about it getting punctured.
  • Produced in allergy-free factories, they are free of gluten, peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, and dairy. This one is safe to hand to just about anyone who can eat fruit. They're also kosher, vegan, and GMO-free for those with non-health related diets.
  • “Product of China” on the bag was a disappointment. I try to avoid foods from foreign countries that have lower food-safety standards. China has a bad track record when it comes to food safety, with unsafe additives and lax quality control being well documented, but it's hard to mess up freeze-drying fruits.
  • No additives. That means no added sugars, preservatives, colors, or flavorings. This cuts down on the chances that someone could substitute a cheaper but less healthy additive, a known problem with Chinese imports.
  • All of the bags were marked with a “best by” date about two years out. Freeze-dried foods typically have a shelf-life measured in decades, so I wouldn't have a problem storing these for 5-10 years.
  • The local store didn't have a lot on the shelf, so I checked Amazon. The prices online are much higher, inthe $4.50 to $7.20 per bag range. They did have dried pears on Amazon, which I may have to try. 
  • I checked the company's website and they had no mention of the freeze-dried fruits, just jams, preserves and pickles. Either the fruit is a new offering or it has been discontinued and the dollar stores got the leftover stock, I'm not sure which yet.
Other than the “Made in China” that I try to avoid, I can't find anything negative about this brand. Having something close to fresh fruit will add to my nutritional needs and the flavors will help break up the tastebud burnout of eating canned foods. Keep an eye out for these, as they'll make a good addition to your stored foods.

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