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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/The Big Freeze

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the first frozen peas. Ninety-one years ago, a naturalist discovered the secret of freezing foods while fishing in the Arctic tundra.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Percy Faith & His Orchestra “The Synchopated Clock” TELEVISION THEMES – 16 MOST REQUESTED SONGS (Columbia – 1994)]

CURWOOD: November is a time to batten down the hatches and stock up for the long winter. And for some folks, that means stuffing the freezer with plenty of food. The commercial frozen food phenomenon started with just one man and a fish out on the icy tundra of northern Canada. A naturalist and fur trader named of Clarence Birdseye traveled there in 1912.

He took notes on how Arctic people preserved their fish in barrels of seawater which turned the fish into popsicles in the icy wind. Birdseye realized that freezing foods quickly at extremely cold temperatures kept damaging ice crystals from forming. He took that observation to the bank, creating Birdseye Seafoods in 1922 and then marketing a highly successful line of frozen vegetables. Generations of Americans grew up eating Birdseye frozen peas.

Freezing today is a bit more advanced, says Olga Padilla Zakour, a food scientist at Cornell University. She's working on a consumer-friendly technique to eliminate the hassle of chipping away at that stubborn portion of peas that just won’t be parted from their frozen brethren.

ZAKOUR: We like to do freezing of the individual pieces of peas in which each pea is frozen before it is packaged. The peas will be suspended in cold air while they're being frozen and we can immerse them directly into liquid nitrogen.

CURWOOD: For the home freezer, Ms. Zakour recommends sealing foods in plastic bags or airtight containers to prevent dehydration and marking them with yearly expiration dates. And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC: Percy Faith & His Orchestra “The Synchopated Clock” TELEVISION THEMES – 16 MOST REQUESTED SONGS (Columbia – 1994)]



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