Make your produce last longer
Here’s a frustrating scenario. You’ve spent a few hours on Saturday morning creating a shopping list for a week’s worth of healthy meals. You’ve sifted through the sales ads and cut coupons and fought crowds down the aisles and at the register. Four days later, your fresh fruits and vegetables are already starting to look less than appetizing.
We’ve all been there, but the good news is, there are solutions to these produce woes. Here are 10 tricks to prolong the life of your produce.
- Consider purchasing an ethylene gas absorber. Some fruits and vegetables release ethylene gas in the process of ripening. It helps them to turn softer and sweeter while other produce is sensitive to it. This can cause foods like berries, broccoli, leafy greens and squash to ripen too quickly.
- Take care of your herbs. Fresh herbs are easy to grow but if maintaining them is too time consuming, store bought herbs can stay fresh for quite some time if stored properly. Delicate herbs like cilantro and parsley should be stored like flowers. Place them in a jar with a little water at the bottom. Cover them with a plastic bag, secure with a rubber band and refrigerate. Oily herbs like thyme can be tied in a bundle and hung, upside-down, in open air. Either type can be rinsed, chopped and placed in an ice cube tray. Fill the cubes with olive oil and freeze.
- Wash berries in a vinegar solution. Use 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts water. Swirl the berries in the mixture, drain, and rinse; pat dry and place in a paper towel lined container in the fridge. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and mold killer so it’ll rid the berries of bacteria and mold spores that accelerate the deterioration process.
- Find potatoes’ friends and foes. You mostly see potatoes in a basket along onions and garlic. Although great for a frittata, this is a no-no. Again related to ethylene gas, potatoes will start to sprout faster in the presence of onions. So what should be the basket partner to potatoes? Apples.
- Keep your greens hydrated, but not too hydrated. This is kind of a two part trick. When you bring your greens home from the store, go ahead and chop, rinse and spin them dry. If you’re not ready to use them, put them in a Ziploc bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. The key is to throw a paper towel in with the greens to help absorb excess moisture and keep wilting at bay. Speaking of wilting, the second part of this trick addresses what to do after your greens have started to wilt. Place them in an ice bath for a few hours. The process of osmosis will help to rehydrate the leaves leaving them crispy and ready to eat.
- Ban plastic containers. Just kidding, it solves lots of storage issues. However, storing food in glass containers such as mason jars creates an airtight seal which can lengthen the lifespan of its contents by a few extra days. Plus, tupperware will eventually begin to deteriorate and stain from past food storage, which can result in chemicals leaching into your food… Yuck!
- Tin foil is better than a crisper drawer. Wrapping vegetable like carrots and celery in tin foil will help to prevent them from drying out which is what causes them to go limp. Side note: you can still use these vegetables when they go limp. They just need to be rehydrated like with leafy greens.
- Wrap banana stems in plastic. They release ethylene gas as a way of ripening, the majority of this gas is released through the stems. Wrapping the stems will slow down the process.
- Consult the FDA storage chart. Find out what you can refrigerate and freeze and for how long with this handy storage chart from the FDA. An opened package of lunch meat will only keep 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator, but in the freezer can last up to two months without loss in quality. Refer to the chart to learn what other foods you can freeze to extend their life spans.
- Seek out information. There are numerous websites that will address care and storage of specific fruits, vegetables and more. Foodsafety.gov and Nutrition.gov are good places to start.