Delicious, nutritious produce… Many of us are trying to get more vegetables and fruits in our diets. One problem with that goal, however, is trying to preserve the nutrients and flavor of all that produce until we can use it up.
Unfortunately, we throw away much of the produce we purchase. All too often, it goes straight from the grocery cart to our kitchen to the trash without ever hitting a plate. A 2003 study by Professor Timothy W. Jones of the University of Arizona found that American households throw away 1.28 pounds of food a day and 27 percent of that food waste includes vegetables.
We can do our part in reducing that wasteful habit by ensuring that our produce actually gets eaten and enjoyed rather than tossed (or even composted).
Here are some tips for keeping your produce fresh, tasty, and nutritious until it actually gets eaten:
- Buy locally grown produce whenever possible.
Produce that wasn’t grown locally has typically traveled an average of 1,500 miles over the course of a week or more. Then, it may sit on store shelves for several days before you purchase it. It has already started to decline before you even take it home.
In contrast, locally grown produce was generally picked within 24 – 48 hours of reaching your kitchen. Not only is it more nutritious, but it tastes better, too!
- If you can’t buy locally grown, buy frozen.
Produce generally starts losing nutrients and flavor as soon as it’s picked. After just a couple of days, it’s no longer as sweet and crunchy as it was when first picked. It also has to be picked before the peak of ripeness so it won’t spoil before it reaches store shelves. If it was frozen soon after picking, however, it would more likely be at its peak of freshness, flavor, and nutrients.
- Don’t wash away those nutrients!
Hold off on washing delicate produce like leaf lettuce and berries until right before you eat them. They’ll stay in better condition for longer without the extra moisture they’ll absorb when washed. A berry keeper will also help ensure your berries stay fresh and mold-free for longer. If you like to keep prepped veggies on hand for easy snacking, try keeping them in produce keepers.
- Match the storage to the produce.
It’s best to store your fruits and vegetables in separate crisper drawers, since many fruits can hasten spoilage in vegetables. This article has useful lists of which fruits and vegetables ‘play nicely’ together and whether or not to refrigerate them.
A cool, dark pantry or cupboard is the best place for your onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Proper air-flow is best; don’t pile them too high to prevent bruising.
Tomatoes are best stored upside down on the counter. Refrigerate any leftovers after cutting.
Bananas last longer if they’re hung on a banana hook. Having one that’s attached to a fruit basket gives you a place to keep fruits like peaches, plums, and pears that also store best at room temperature.
- Give your produce room to breathe.
Take it out of plastic produce bags and remove any rubber bands or twist-ties. Store it loosely covered in paper or perforated plastic containers to help prevent mold or rot. If you can’t use all of your mushrooms, simply wipe them clean, let them dry, and store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. They’ll dehydrate rather than spoil and are great in sauces or soups.
If you are interested in more getting more tips about food preservation, please contact us at Western National Property Management.