When you eat fresh local produce, you’re eating the most nutritious, delicious food you can get. The key to preserving those benefits is proper handling and storage. Try these tips and tricks to make the fresh taste and nutrition last.
Eat the produce with the shortest life span first.
DIVAS: Indulge right away: berries, broccoli, cherries, green beans, leafy greens, mushrooms, peaches and plums (if soft and ripe), peas, and sweet corn.
BESTIES: They’re there for you. No rush, but don’t wait forever: cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, green onions, greens from root veggies, herbs, leeks, peppers, radishes, summer squashes, and tomatoes.
NO WORRIES: Save them for last. They’ll kick back and last for a couple of weeks, so long as they’re in their happy place. These include: apples, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, pears, potatoes, and root veggies.
2.Dry your produce
Remove any condensation as soon as you receive your delivery. Gently dry off the exteriors and allow produce to finish air-drying before packing it away.
3.QC your veggies and fruits before storing
One bad apple can destroy the whole bunch. If there’s one mushy or moldy berry, toss it right away.
4.Trim the greens
When you trim the greens on root vegetables like beets, carrots, and turnips, they maintain the peak nutrients they were harvested with.
Potatoes do better in dry environments, while onions tend to release moisture. Keep your potatoes dry and your onions moist by storing them in a cool, dark corner of the pantry — separate from one another.
6.Wait to wash
Moisture and bruising accelerate decay and nutrient loss, so wait to wash your produce until right before you eat it or cook it.
7.Wait to cut and peel
Peeling and chopping expose the insides to oxygen and light, and that kills nutrients. So hold off until you’re ready to use them.
8.Don’t wait to refrigerate
For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down decay and nutrient loss because it inhibits destructive enzymes and the loss of vitamin C. B vitamins are particularly sensitive to heat and light.
Exceptions: citrus and anything that could use some ripening, plus garlic, ginger, potatoes, onions, winter squash, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes.
9.Rehydrate when needed
Perk up droopy, dehydrated greens by placing their stems in water to refresh them.
10.Don’t crowd your crops
Give everything room to “breathe” if it’s stored in a bag. Otherwise, moisture builds up, more bruising happens, and the produce will spoil more quickly.
11.The humidity factor
In general, vegetables last longer in a more humid environment, while fruits prefer a slightly less humid environment. General rule of thumb:Keep most fruits in the low humidity crisper drawer and keep vegetables in the high humidity drawer.
Beware the ethylene gas!
It’s released by some fruits and causes ethylene- sensitive produce to ripen faster. So keep gas sensitives away from gassy emitters. Apples are both! Keep them on a shelf in the fridge.
Low humidity drawer:
• Most fruits
• Onions you plan to keep awhile (they like low humidity and are neutral in the gas wars)
High humidity drawer:
• Gas-sensitive fruits you plan to keep a few days (unripe avocados, grapes, persimmons, watermelon)
On the counter:
• Unripe fruits that are both gassy emitters and gas-sensitives (apples, apricots, avocados, cantaloupe, mangos, honeydew melons, peaches, pears, plums)
12.Or freeze it
Frozen or canned veggies will keep in the freezer for 8–12 months! While refrigeration slows the deterioration, freezing and canning stop it cold. The remaining nutrients and flavor stay put until you’re ready to eat it.
• Start with produce that’s as fresh as possible and in good condition.
• Clean it thoroughly.
• Boil water and drop the produce directly into the water or steam it for 2–5 minutes until it’s just done.
• Drop the produce into ice water to stop the enzyme activity that destroys nutrients and changes texture.
• Let the produce cool, then put it into plastic freezer bags, squeezing out the air as you seal it up. Or, to keep it from freezing into one big solid block, pat it dry, spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the individual pieces are frozen, pop them into bags. When you’re ready to use them, use just what you need.
Freezing fruits is even easier.
• Wash it
• Peel, core, and chop into bite-sized pieces
• Put it on a cookie sheet to freeze
• Pop into a freezer bag
About Seasonal Roots
Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grass fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.