Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MY Tips for Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Fresh

I never buy groceries that someone doesn’t stop me to ask a question, usually about the produce they are purchasing. If I have so many constituents locally with questions, I thought some of you might also.

I have read many sources with various philosophies for keeping fruits and vegetables fresh. Many gave conflicting advice. Some talked about the microclimates within your refrigerator; others went into lengthy discussions of ethylene, a natural gas produced by all fruits and vegetables. I agreed with some of the advice and suggestions; others I did not.

First, let’s look at a list of givens:

1. Most produce simply lasts longer in a chilled environment such as the refrigerator for those of us in the deep south, especially for produce that is bought at the large chain stores. Much of the produce sold in such situations may have been picked weeks ahead, often immature with the expectation of ripening on the way to the store, which is why I am a big fan of real farmer’s markets and backyard gardening.

2. Most root vegetables will keep longest if stored in a cool dry place, which doesn’t necessarily make the refrigerator the best choice, although I have found both onion and garlic do well in the crisper. Gingerroot keeps well stored in the freezer.

3. Fruits and veggies should not be washed until ready for use. The added moisture contributes to the production of bacteria prematurely.

Okay, the question I get most often are about veggies such as asparagus, celery and fresh herbs is “How do I keep these fresh four or five days until I am ready to use this produce?”

Keep in mind that fresh veggies are like a bouquet of flowers, which you would never consider putting into a cooler without water.

So, here is what I do: I cut the fibrous ends off and store them in water on the shelf in my refrigerator. I have found this method to prolong the life of this type of produce up to a week.

Let’s talk lettuce:

I typically leave head-type lettuces in their package or wrap them loosely in paper towel to absorb any moisture.

For leaf types, once again I cut the tip ends off the bottom of the leaves and wrap the bottoms in a wet paper towel. I store the leaves in an open zip lock with the tops of the leaves sticking out of the bag. I try to use leaf types of lettuces within 3 to 4 days.

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