ontario-produce-july-2015
Every week I pick up our organic CSA food share to see what goodies they’ve harvested. This week we got carrots, beets, three types of kale, swiss chard, garlic scapes, broccoli, onions, rhubarb, parsley and basil. So much good, healthy whole food! We have a relatively short growing season here, which means I need to enjoy local produce while I can!

I pick up most of our fruits and vegetables from farmers markets and through our food share, but it’s easy to get carried away and have a fridge full of fresh food that starts to go limp and gross quickly if it isn’t stored properly. Taking 10-15 minutes to properly store all your goodies can help keep your produce fresh and reduce spoilage!

The three things you need to remember most when storing produce:

1) Don’t clean it until you’re ready to use it – Moisture and dampness encourages bacteria growth, so it’s better to wash your produce right before using them.

2) Give them room to breathe – A sealed plastic bag doesn’t allow your produce air circulation, which can make them spoil faster. Using reusable mesh bags if you can, and if you don’t have any, a loose plastic bag (or one with small holes) is better.

3) Avoid storing fruits and vegetables together – Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which can speed up the ripening of your vegetables and lead to spoilage

clean-out-fridge
I start by cleaning out the fridge of any old food and then take five minutes to wash and wipe each drawer and all the shelves. Starting off with a clean fridge is the first step to eliminating food waste! If I have produce leftover from last week, I try to bring it to the front of the fridge as a reminder to use it up first.

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storing-fresh-herbs
Fresh Herbs – Store in a glass of water in the fridge. Replace the water and snip the ends every two days, like you would with fresh flowers. For loose leaves like basil or mint, store in an unsealed plastic bag with a piece of paper towel. Wash and dry right before using.

Asparagus – Trim half an inch off the end of the stalks and stand them up in a tall glass with about an inch of water. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag. Re-trim the ends and wash really well before using.

storing-fresh-greens
Salad Greens – Store loosely in a plastic container or an unsealed plastic bag. If your container doesn’t have holes for ventilation, leave the top of the bag open. If the leaves are wet, store with a piece of paper towel. Do not wash until you’re ready to use, as moisture on the leaves can make them spoil quickly.

washing-lettuce
When you’re ready to use the greens, try Garrett’s grandmother’s trick – soak them in cold water with a little vinegar. Swish it around and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse until water runs clear and there is no more dirt or bugs. Spin to dry or pat with a clean paper towel. If you want to store washed and dried lettuce, store in a dry salad spinner for a couple of days.

kale-swiss-chard
Hearty Greens – Thicker greens like kale and swiss chard can be stored in an unsealed plastic bag. Remove the thicker stems before storing. Wash like salad greens in a cold water and vinegar solution.

farmers-market-raspberries
Berries – These delicate fruits can deteriorate very quickly. It’s best to leave them in the container they came in, allowing space for ventilation.

You can also try this method from Cook’s Illustrated. Wash berries in a diluted vinegar bath (1 cup vinegar to three cups water) and spin until completely dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels. Store the cleaned berries in a container lined with paper towels, with the lid open slightly to allow moisture to escape.

ontario-carrots-beets
Root Vegetables – Cut off greens to use for recipes (I feed them to the chickens!) and store in a loose plastic bag. If you leave the greens on, they can draw the moisture from the roots and make them go limp. Roots like carrots and beets will store for 2-3 weeks in a well ventilated, unsealed plastic bag. No need to wash off the dirt until you’re ready to eat them. If you know where they are grown (organic farm or your garden) you can skip peeling them and just scrub with a good brush to remove all dirt. Otherwise, wash them, peel the skins and then rinse again before chopping.

carrot-legs

Look, this carrot has legs!

ontario-radishes
Radishes – Cut greens off and store submerged in a container of cold water. This method works for carrot stick and celery too!

farmers-market-tomatoes

Tomatoes – Store on the counter and keep them out the fridge, as the cold will make them mushy. Once they ripen, eat them or chop and freeze for cooking later.

storing-garlic-scapes

Garlic Scraps – We have got these the last few weeks and I’ve been adding them to an unsealed plastic bag to wash up and make into a garlic paste. I’ll be sharing the recipe soon!

Spring Onions – Store in a tall glass, with about an inch of water in the bottom and a plastic bag loose over top.

Regular Garlic and Onions – Store at room temperature in a mesh bag in an open container, preferably away from direct sunlight. I like to use one of my open baskets on my kitchen cart. Leave on the papery skin until you’re ready to use it. It’s okay to store garlic and onions together, just keep them away from potatoes.

Potatoes – Keep in a paper bag, in a dark and cool place such as a pantry, away from onions. Don’t put them in the fridge, which can cause the starches to turn into sugars.

farmers-market-zucchini
Zucchini, Summer Squash and Cucumbers – These vegetables don’t do well in a fridge for long periods of time. Lightly wrap in plastic and store in a crisper drawer for a few days.

ontario-corn
Corn – Corn is best if eaten within a day or two of being picked, while it is at it’s sugary peak. If it’s stored too long, it will begin to lose it’s sweetness and start to taste starchy. Refrigerate corn in it’s husk until you’re ready to use it. If you can’t eat it up in time, slice off the corn kernels and freeze for future dishes.

I hope these tips help you get the most out of your produce this summer!

What is your favourite seasonal produce right now?

I’m all about the greens this month. They’re perfect as a salad to go along with my favourite grilled dishes!

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4 thoughts on “Washing & Storing Seasonal Produce

  1. Amy

    These tips are amazing! Especially when you grow your own fruit and veg, I feel like I have to eat it straight away to preserve the natural flavours!

    Thank you so much for these tips!

    Reply

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