Do you know what I hate? Buying a bounty of beautiful fresh produce and finding it already spoiled when I’m ready to enjoy it. Can you relate? It feels like such a waste but it happens to the best of us. Well, enough of that! This week, I’ve got some handy tips to help nip this problem in the bud. Read on to learn how to keep your produce fresh and delicious as long as possible.
It Starts at the Market
This may go without saying, but choosing well at the market makes a big difference. Ripe produce is great if you’re going to eat it quickly. But you’ll want to balance that with firmer fruit and veggies that will last a little longer. Avoid produce that is bruised, blemished or damaged in any way. You’ll also want to steer clear of anything discoloured, wilting or showing signs of being past its prime.
Here Are Some Tips to Consider:
Hold the avocado in your palm and give it a gentle squeeze. A ripe avocado will yield slightly to gentle pressure. If it feels hard it will need more time to ripen. If it feels very soft it’s overripe. Peek under the cap where the stem was to confirm. If it’s green go for it, if it’s brown, leave it behind.
Look for berries that look bright, fresh and plump. Avoid any with noticeable blemishes or shrivelled skins. Peek at the bottom of the clamshell as well to make sure they all look as nice and fresh as the berries on top.
Choose carrots that are firm and smooth. Avoid any that are softening, limp or have little white rootlets sprouting out of the length of the carrot.
Choose a head with florets that are creamy white and tightly packed. Avoid any that are yellowed or have brown spots.
Aim for bright green husks. Then peel the husk back a little to ensure that the kernels haven’t dried out. The silk should be moist to the touch, but not slimy.
Aim for an eggplant that feels heavy for its size and has smooth, shiny skin. When you give it a gentle press, the flesh should bounce back. If it doesn’t it’s overripe. If the flesh doesn’t give at all, then it’s not ripe yet.
Choose greens with bright and crisp leaves. Avoid anything discoloured, wilted or slimy. The stems should be firm and crisp as well.
Choose a melon that feels heavy for its size and is free of any bruises, cracks or soft spots. If you smell the stem end, it should smell sweet and fragrant.
Look for a pineapple with healthy green leaves and greenish-yellow coloured skin. The skin will yellow as it ripens. It should yield slightly when gently squeezed (if it’s rock hard it’s not ripe). It should also feel heavy for its size and smell sweet and fragrant near the bottom.
Potatoes can last a while in the pantry, as long as you pick fresh ones at the market. Look for potatoes that are smooth and firm. Avoid any that look shrivelled, discoloured or have sprouts.
Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size and are fragrant. Avoid any with bruises, soft spots or wrinkled skin.
It’s always disappointing when you cut into an under-ripe and bland watermelon. Look for one with a creamy yellow spot on the skin. This lets you know that it ripened on the vine before being picked. It should also feel heavy for its size and produce a hollow sound when you tap it. A dull sound tells you the flesh is beginning to soften inside. If there is webbing on the skin, this typically indicates a sweeter watermelon.
Let’s Talk Storage
Another important factor in keeping your produce fresh is storage. Different types of produce have different needs once you get them home. Some do best in the fridge, while others prefer the countertop. Some even prefer a dark storage space. Check out the infographic below to find out where common fruits and vegetables prefer to be stored.
More Storage Tips:
Store asparagus in the fridge, upright, in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top. This will help keep the stalks crisp and fresh.
Trim the ends and store them in water (like flowers) with a plastic bag over the top. Most do well in the fridge this way, except basil. Store basil the same way, except on the counter instead of the fridge. Woody herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme do best in the fridge wrapped in a damp cloth and stored in a sealed container.
Put your mushrooms in a paper bag and store them in the fridge. This helps keep them from getting too moist, but will also prevent them from drying out completely.
Cut the green top off and store upside down on the counter. This helps the sweetness spread through the entire fruit. Once ripe or cut into, move it to the fridge.
Potatoes & Onions
Both like to be stored in a cool dark place, but don’t store them together. Onions produce a sulphur gas that will cause the potatoes to sprout and spoil faster.
Store tomatoes on the counter, stem side down and out of direct sunlight. This helps them last longer by keeping air out and moisture in.
A Little Prep Goes a Long Way
It really pays to do some prep when you come home from the market. Often times, if you just put everything away, you’ll start to find spoiled or wilted produce within a few days. If you take a little time to prep your produce properly, it will last a lot longer.
Prep Tips to Consider:
Give It a Once Over
Check over any packaged produce and remove anything damaged or spoiled Especially things like berries, grapes and citrus fruits that are packaged together. This will keep a few squished pieces from spoiling the whole bunch.
Wash and spin or dry your greens when you get home. You can chop them up and store them in a container with a lid. Line the container with paper towel (or lightweight kitchen towel) to help absorb excess moisture. If you would rather keep the leaves whole, store them folded up in paper or kitchen towel. Change the towel out through the week as you notice it get overly damp. This will help keep them fresh as moisture is the enemy of crisp greens.
Give Your Berries a Bath
Give your berries a bath before you put them away. Use 1 cup of white vinegar to 8 cups of water and soak your berries in this mixture for about 10 minutes. This will kill any bacteria or mould spores on the surface that would cause your berries to spoil quickly. Don’t worry, your berries will not taste like vinegar. Give them another rinse and then lay them out to dry before storing in a container lined with paper towel (or absorbent kitchen towel). Heartier berries like strawberries and blueberries can be gently dried to speed up this process, but delicate berries like raspberries should be allowed to air dry.
Keep your celery crisp longer by wrapping the stalks in tin foil or storing them in a sealed container. If it does go limp, try soaking in ice water for a few minutes to revive it.
Remove green tops
If your carrots, beets or radishes still have the greens attached, remove them prior to storing. While attached, the greens will slowly pull moisture, leaving these root veggies limp and sad. Aim to use the greens right away as they will spoil quickly.
Best of Friends and Enemies of Freshness
When it comes to storing your produce, the varieties you store together can have a huge impact on how long they will last. Certain varieties produce ethylene gas, which will quickly ripen, and in some cases spoil foods that are sensitive to ethylene. To help keep your produce fresh longer, aim to keep ethylene producing varieties away from ethylene sensitive foods.
Don’t forget that you can also use this to your advantage. Toss a ripe bananas into a paper bag with any fruit to speed up the ripening process when needed. Check out the infographic below to learn which foods are ethylene producers and which are sensitive to it.
More Tips for Avoiding Food Waste
This is a common warehousing term that stands for “First In First Out”. When you put away your produce, be sure to pull any remaining items from last week to the front and use those first. Otherwise, they’ll get lost in the back behind all of the fresh stuff.
Utilize the Freezer
If your fruits or vegetables ripened too fast, package them for the freezer to get more life out of them. Just avoid freezing anything with a high water content (think cucumbers) as they tend to turn to mush once thawed.
Keep a List
Keep a running list on the fridge of what produce you brought home. This can help to avoid the science experiment that occurs in the back when you forgot something.
Watch the ripe stuff
Keep an eye on the produce on your counter. If it ripens faster than you can eat it, move it to the fridge to slow the process and buy some more time.
The Bottom Line
Now you should have a good handle on how to keep your produce fresh. You don’t have to sit back and watch it all spoil before you can get to it. After all, if it goes bad before you can eat it, it’s not doing your body any good. If you choose wisely and store like a pro, it should last longer at home. Try out these awesome food storage tips to get the most bang for your produce buck.
Have some awesome tips of your own? Share them down in the comment section below!