In an attempt to reduce the amount of kitchen waste my family produces, I’ve done a good deal of research and put in place several of my findings. On the off chance that your family also struggles with food waste, these 17 tips on How to Keep Produce Fresh Longer may come in handy for you too!
So, a ‘friend’ posted this struggle.
She goes to the grocery store and loads her cart with bright red, fresh strawberries because she just knows that today will be the day that her teenage son actually wants a handful of strawberries after school instead of stopping on the way home from school for a bag of Doritos. OR…she fills her shopping cart with a rainbow of brilliantly colored vegetables for the hearty and healthy salads they will be eating for several meals this week, only to find that they have several showings scheduled and so end up grabbing pizza instead.
As much as I do appreciate the benefits of compost and building my compost pile, I’d rather it be my strawberry caps and leaves that get composted and not the entire strawberry! Can I get an ‘AMEN’?
I don’t know if this fact will make my friend feel any better, but she is not alone. Sadly, the average American family tosses 25% of their groceries into the trash…yikes!
If your ‘friend’ has the same struggles with keeping food fresher longer, I’ve gathered a few tips on how to keep produce fresh that you can share with her.
How to Keep Produce Fresh Longer
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- Give your berries a vinegar bath. The vinegar kills any bacteria spores that could be on the fruit, thereby reducing the opportunity for the mold spores to multiply. I use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Once the berries have had their vinegar bath, I remove them to a colander or towel or salad spinner to make sure they are completely dry before I store them in the fridge. I also use a berry storage container that maintains an appropriate level of oxygen and carbon dioxide and has a vented tray that prevents the berries from sitting in moisture. If you don’t have a berry storage container, line a container with a couple of pieces of paper towel and layer the berries between more paper towels. The secret is to minimize moisture.
- Some fruits and vegetables will produce ethylene, a gas that initiates the ripening process. Ethylene can cause premature ripening in some foods, while in others it can actually cause damage and the more ripe fruit is, the more ethylene gas it emits. To reduce premature ripening or unnecessary spoilage of your produce, do not store ethylene producing fruits and vegetables with those that are sensitive to it.
- ETHYLENE PRODUCING FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:
- Ripening bananas
- Kiwi fruit
- ETHYLENE SENSITIVE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:
- Unripe bananas
- Green beans
- Belgian endive
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- ETHYLENE PRODUCING FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:
- And because there is an exception for every rule, storing apples with potatoes will actually prevent potatoes from sprouting eyes for up to 8 weeks!
- While we are talking about potatoes, moisture and light will cause them to spoil at a faster rate, so store them in a dry, cool, and dark place.
- Consider an ethylene gas absorber in your produce bins as a great way to reduce that decaying process.
- Use your humidity drawer properly. When you are in the produce aisles of the grocery store, be mindful of what fruit and vegetables are against the wall and under the misters. Only those fruits and vegetables should be in your humidity drawer. This means that onions, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, apples, oranges, etc… should not be in the humidity drawer.
- Wrap mushrooms in paper towels before storing them.
- Don’t separate your bananas, but do wrap their stem in plastic wrap.
- Let avocados ripen at room temperature (putting them in a bag with your bananas will speed up that process), but once ripe, store them in your refrigerator.
- If you buy your leafy greens in a plastic tub, take them out of the tub, wrap them loosely in a paper towel, and then return them to the plastic tub. The paper towel will absorb any unwanted moisture.
- Store your lemons and limes in a container of water in your refrigerator.
- Parsley and Cilantro will hang around longer if you trim their stems, place them in a jar of water, cover them loosely with a plastic bag, and place them in the refrigerator. Change the water as needed. I was gifted with this herb saver several years ago and have had great success with it as well.
- For basil, do the same but skip the bag and refrigerator. Basil does best at room temperature.
- This principle also helps extend the life of asparagus and scallions. Trim the ends of the asparagus, but leave the roots on your scallions. You can keep your scallions on your counter if you chose, but if you want to pop them in the fridge then cover them lightly with a plastic bag. Change the water as needed.
- Remove your head of celery from the grocery store plastic bag (it traps ethylene gas) and wrap it in aluminum foil. Wrap the foil tightly enough so that too much moisture doesn’t get out but not so tightly that ethylene can’t escape. Keep the celery head whole and don’t crimp or seal the foil.
- To further extend the life of my fruit and veggies, I have lined my refrigerator produce bins with these inexpensive and lightweight foam liners which absorb moisture and odor and encourage air circulation.
- Are your refrigerator and freezer at the right temp? The FDA recommends 40º for your refrigerator to keep food fresh longer. If in doubt, an inexpensive Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer can come in handy.
- Learn how your refrigerator works. My side by side refrigerator is the very coldest in the top left-hand corner where the air comes in from the freezer and at the bottom as cold air falls.
- Use a thermometer to find the coldest and warmest spots in your refrigerator and store appropriate food there. For instance, I keep a large pitcher of herbal ice tea at the top left so it is always ‘ice-cold’ and avoid storing lettuce, celery, and other water-heavy fruits and vegetables there.
What are some of your tips for How to Keep Produce Fresh?
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