IQF Spinach is fast becoming one of the most in-demand products on the global frozen vegetable market. Spinach sales and volume has steadily been rising over the last few years. Moreover, organic spinach sales have risen by about 9% in each of the past two years (Produce Market Guide). The era of IQF spinach is just beginning and those who get in the game fast and offers a high-quality product will be the big winners in the years to come.
A popular method of freezing spinach is in cubes but this process causes the product to become over blanched which results in the loss of nutrients, flavor, and quality. However, with newer technology and more efficient equipment, processors have been moving away from this flawed method of freezing. Instead, they have moved on to IQF whole and chopped spinach which keeps the product looking, tasting and feeling as close to its fresh counterpart as possible.
One of the best ways to preserve good quality spinach is to IQF freeze it. However, when it comes to IQF freezing leafy greens, there is an additional step that is required to achieve the best results—blanching.
Step 1: Optimal Blanching and Chilling
Blanching stops the enzymatic activity that affects the natural appearance, taste, and texture of the spinach. While some could argue that blanching might affect the nutritional value of vegetables, according to researchers in Finland, freezing spinach immediately after the blanching and chilling process allows for the preservation of most of the vitamins and in certain cases, increasing it. (SFGate).
Vegetables may be blanched in boiling water or steam; however, steam blanching does not allow for accurate temperature control which can lead to over blanching. This is why the OctoFrost™ IF Blancher uses a combination of steam and its unique rainfall shower system.
Immediately after the blanching process, the spinach should be chilled quickly to immediately stop the blanching process. The OctoFrost™ IF Chiller guarantees quick and even chilling thanks to the ice water that gently falls over the product through the rain shower system.
Step 2: Dewatering Process
The dewatering stage that happens immediately after blanching and chilling is typically done through two methods: pressing the product under a spring-loaded cylinder or in centrifuges. Both methods typically create lumps of spinach that will need to be loosened up before freezing. However, the OctoFrost team has developed a new piece of equipment, a tedder that efficiently rakes and separates the wilted spinach which resolves this lumping issue.
Step 3: Efficient Equipment
Achieving optimal IQF spinach is possible due to the gentle fluidization in the OctoFrost™ IQF tunnel that occurs on the bedplates which use asymmetrical movement to gently separate the IQF spinach. The OctoFrost™ fans have adjustable speeds that avoid the overblow of spinach into the coil. The OctoFrost™ is an innovative IQF freezer with a unique set of features. It excels at handling sticky, fragile and otherwise difficult products like IQF spinach.
The OctoFrost™ IQF Processing Line which consists of the IF Blancher, IF Chiller, Tedder, IQF Tunnel Freezer, and a belt solution for whole spinach leaves, is suitable for producing high quality chopped or whole IQF spinach.