The tradition of preserving fruit and vegetables has a long history and tradition, across the world. As a country that enjoys an abundance of fruits, Sri Lanka also has a long history of preserving fruits while retaining their flavour and nutrients.
Various methods have been tested out during the time, while some companies in the food industries have made preserved fruits and vegetables available in the market. Although, there are a lot of questions that come to our minds when purchasing these products. “Does it have the same nutritional values?” is one of them. Let’s have a deeper look into food preservation and preserved tropical fruits present in Sri Lanka.
The forever goodness present in the Sri Lankan atmosphere is followed by the quality of the soil, climate, and terroir. Fruits grown in this land are unique in their ways. As a result, they find themselves highly in demand in global markets. Mango, Durian, Wood apple, Rambutan, Banana, Avocado, Mangosteen, and Papaya are among some of the famous fruits in Sri Lanka. Their popularity cannot be rated since some of them are only available during their seasons. Other than for day-to-day consumption, Sri Lankans use fruits for many other purposes because of their nutritional values. They also practise various preservation methods on these fruits.
Drying fruits is a common preservation method practised around the world. It involves removing the majority of the original water content from fruits using various drying techniques.
Sun-drying is the most traditional method of drying. This method is followed even today, while food dehydrators are also used to obtain similar results. During the process, fruits tend to shrink, turning into small, energy-dense fruits. For example, raisins are dried grapes. The comparison between an ordinary grape and a raisin explains this transformation. Some of the other dried fruit varieties are apricot, dates, and berries. It is a common belief that most of these fruits lose their best when they are dried. This is a wrong assumption. They are highly nutritious. Some of the common micronutrients found in dried fruits are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.
Dried fruit contains as many nutrients as regular fruit, the only difference is that they are in a smaller package. Each one of them contains 3.5 times the fibre, vitamins and minerals as fresh fruit. Once dried, a fruit becomes a great source of antioxidants. Polyphenol is one of the common antioxidants found in dried fruits.
It is responsible for providing health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, and decreased oxidative damage. As most of its content is dried, these fruits contain less fat or no fat at all. As a result, consuming dried fruits can result in a reduced risk of obesity and might even aid in weight loss.
Pickling takes different forms according to various cultures. The most common pickle is what you can find in jars at grocery stores. It is also what you can find in your cheeseburger. It is known to add the right amount of savour and taste to many food products. Common pickles are cucumbers that have been preserved in a special solution called brine.
Brine is made using vinegar, salt, and special seasonings. Some manufacturers have tried new ways to make the pickling process faster. Adding artificial sugars along with vinegar is added straight to pickles. After water, vinegar takes over most of its juice. Sri Lankans have their way of pickling.
Their most famous pickle is called “Achcharu'', which also includes vinegar in its mixture. The most common pickles you can find on a Sri Lankan dinner table include vegetables. But various fruits are also pickled the same way. Fruit pickle is a famous street food found in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan manufacturers produce a variety of pickles using pineapple, Sri Lankan olives, Mango, Ambarella, and Guava. Most of them are made using a mixture of chilli, salt, and sugar.
Consumption of pickles has its benefits. The fermented parts of the fruit contain good bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics support gut health, resulting in good digestion. Pickles can also help to fight conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases. This is supported by its high antioxidant content called beta-carotene. Once consumed, the body converts this beta-carotene into vitamin C. After exercising the body loses a lot of electrolytes. Pickles can replace electrolytes quickly. As a result, it helps to ease any muscle cramps.
Tropical fruits preserved in any of these ways share the same nutritional values as they do in their fresh form or even more. Take note that not every product you find in the market can deliver these benefits. Some manufacturers might even add unhealthy preservatives to these products to further extend their shelf life. To enjoy the full benefits of both taste and nutrition, it is always important to purchase these preserved fruit varieties from certified sellers.
Preserving fruits in sugar syrup is one of the oldest and the most effective preservation methods that is practised even today. These syrups are made by heating water and sugar together. Syrups used in this method helps to retain the flavour, colour, and shape of most fruits. Five main types of syrups are used to preserve fruits.
They differ from each other through their sugar content. A very light syrup usually contains 10% known to contain the fewest calories. A light syrup contains 20% sugar. It is usually perfect for preserving any fruit. A medium syrup may contain 30 % sugar. These syrups are used to preserve fruits such as pineapples, cherries, apples, and grapes. A heavy syrup contains 40% sugar. It is great for preserving tart fruits such as apricots, cherries, pears, and peaches. If 50% of syrup is sugar, it can be used to preserve sour fruits since it contains most of the calories.
Although sugar syrups help food to last longer while maintaining its value, the health benefits one can gain by consuming these syrups are not much. But the fruits can still have the same nutritional properties they had when they were fresh. Vitamin C is a commonly found nutrient among these varieties of food stored in syrup.
The American Diabetes Association suggests that purchasing canned fruits that are stored in sugar syrup is not a good idea if you're a health risk. They recommend consuming canned fruits that have “Unsweetened” or “No sugar added” labels on them.