We all know the feeling. Open the fridge crisper drawer to grab lettuce and feel a pang of guilt after an assessment of its mushy state. Don’t feel bad. The reality of living at the end of a long supply chain is that it is difficult to keep fruits and vegetables fresh after bringing them home. Food traveling to Southeast Alaska takes an average of seven days from its date of harvest to get to our grocery store shelves. Add to it the days it waits to be eaten at home as we buy more at once now to limit grocery store visits. Read on for tips and tricks to keeping your carrots crunchy and your greens vibrant.
- Only wash your produce when you are ready to use it, and ensure you dry it thoroughly.
- Don’t store all your produce in one place. Ethylene is a gas released by certain produce that speeds ripening. Bananas, avocados, apples, and tomatoes produce ethylene; storing those varieties alongside broccoli, lettuce, and carrots will cause them to ripen quicker.
- Try to use glass storage containers instead of plastic. Glass is not porous and will keep your produce fresher longer.
- Wait to wash your greens until you plan to consume them. If you prefer to wash them in advance, then pat dry with a clean dishcloth and store in a wide-mouthed container in the fridge.
- Place a dry paper towel over the lettuce to draw out the moisture that can otherwise speed browning of the leaves. Replace the towel if it becomes damp.
- Try sprinkling a little bit of salt on the leaves to absorb water.
- The ideal way to store leafy greens is to treat them like cut flowers. Cut an inch or two off the ends, fill a container with water in the bottom, and store them standing up in the refrigerator to stay hydrated.
- Wrap celery in aluminum foil (it’s reusable).
- Potatoes do best when stored in a dark, well-ventilated container.
- Submerge your carrots or radishes in water, and store them in the refrigerator. Remove the greens from both vegetables before doing so.
- Onions like a similar environment to potatoes, but do not store them with other produce as onions can create moisture and spoil other vegetables.
- Regrow your green onions. Yes, we can and it’s easy. Take the leftover ends (2–3″) and place them in a glass of water on a windowsill with sunlight. In about a week you should notice new root growth. Replant the new root growth in soil.
Broccoli and Cauliflower:
- Broccoli can turn quickly, so put it high on your “to-cook” priority list. To extend its life, do not store in a sealed bag as it needs air circulation. Instead, mist the heads with water and wrap in a damp paper towel in the fridge.
- Cauliflower is much more forgiving than broccoli. Simply place in an unsealed plastic bag and put in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Bananas are a high maintenance fruit that produces ethylene gas (see general tips above). If you have space, you should separate them from other produce and from other bananas. Wrap each of the stems with plastic wrap to slow the release of this gas and extend shelf-life. If they brown, they are ideal for banana bread. Or you can peel and freeze in a bag for smoothies.
- Berries should be bathed in vinegar. Pour 2.5 cups of water and a ½ cup of white vinegar in a bowl. Soak the berries for 2 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove the vinegar. Dry them well and store them in a bowl in the refrigerator that is lined with a paper towel on the bottom. This process disinfects them to mold growth.
- If you are only eating half an avocado, then leave the pit in the other half until you are ready to eat. To ensure you don’t have oxidation, i.e., browning, squirt the exposed avocado with lemon or lime juice. To ripen whole avocadoes, you can wrap them in newspaper or a brown paper bag on the counter.
- Surprisingly, tomatoes don’t thrive in the fridge – this can rob them of their texture and flavor. Instead keep them on your counter, stem side down if they are off the stem.
A healthy diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. If fresh produce is not available to you, canned or frozen options are great too. When purchasing canned fruits, buy options that are preserved in water or 100% juice, not syrup. Look for canned vegetables that are labeled low sodium or no added salt.
It’s an old adage, but it’s true: If you have healthy fruit and vegetables in your fridge, you are more likely to eat them. So, shop well and store properly for a healthier you.