Eating fruits and veggies when they’re in season is not only delicious but also budget-friendly. They’re at their best in terms of taste and price during these times. However, they don’t last forever, so it’s crucial to know how to keep them fresh and make your food budget go further.
Storing Fresh Produce
To prevent food waste (which costs Americans a whopping $408 billion yearly), store your fruits and veggies correctly. Leafy greens, berries, and herbs should go in the fridge, while tomatoes, avocados, citrus fruits, melons, and bananas should stay outside until they ripen. Once ripe, you can refrigerate them, but be careful with tomatoes and eggplants as they can lose flavor when chilled. Only put them in the fridge as a last resort.
Some fruits like apples, bananas, and avocados emit ethylene gas, which can speed up ripening and spoil other produce. Keep these ethylene-producers away from veggies like broccoli, leafy greens, and Brussels sprouts.
Keep Things Dry
Use produce storage bags or containers with small ventilation holes to prevent moisture buildup and mold growth. Dry leafy greens and herbs with salad spinners or towels before storing them to avoid dampness.
Herbs and Berries
Store herbs like cilantro and parsley upright in a jar of water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag. To keep berries fresh, give them a quick bath in a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water, rinse, and dry thoroughly.
Adjust your refrigerator’s crisper drawers’ humidity settings. High humidity is suitable for moisture-loving leafy greens, while low humidity is ideal for fruits and ethylene-producing items. Juicy fruits and veggies, like cucumbers and watermelon, should be stored at 90%-95% humidity.
When storing root vegetables like carrots and beets, remove the attached greens. They can sap nutrients from the roots, making them limp and sometimes bitter. If you want to use the greens, cut them off close to the root and store them like leafy greens.
Separate Certain Items
Onions and potatoes, for example, should be stored separately to prevent premature spoilage due to ethylene production.
Avoid overcrowding produce to ensure good airflow. If you’ve prepped fruits or veggies in advance, store them in airtight containers to maintain freshness. Glass containers are better than plastic as they don’t retain odors.
Also, keep your produce whole until you’re ready to use it. Cutting or peeling exposes the inner parts to oxygen, leading to faster spoilage.
Remove any spoiled items promptly to prevent them from affecting the rest. Prioritize consuming produce fresh with shorter shelf lives before those that last longer.
Preserving the freshness and nutrition of your produce is vital for both your health and your wallet. Here are some simple methods:
- Freezing: Turn water into ice to prevent bacteria and enzymes from causing spoilage. Blanch veggies before freezing, but fruits can often be frozen directly.
- Drying or Dehydrating: Removing water content makes it tough for bacteria and fungi to survive. Use a dehydrator, oven, or sunlight to dry fruits, veggies, and herbs, and store them in airtight containers.
- Vacuum Sealing: Removing air slows down bacteria and fungi growth. Vacuum-sealed bags work for freezing or regular storage. If you preserve produce often, consider a dehydrator for efficiency.
- Canning: Seal fruits or veggies in jars after boiling to kill bacteria, yeast, and mold. This keeps produce fresh for years, but check the seals regularly.
- Pickling: Submerge produce in acidic solutions like vinegar to create an environment hostile to bacteria. Commonly pickled veggies include cucumbers, beets, and onions. Enhance flavors with herbs, spices, and sugar.
Minimize Food Waste
Extending the freshness of your fruits and vegetables is not only good for your health and budget but also for the environment. Combining traditional preservation methods with modern techniques can help you make the most of your perishable produce.