Listen to my monthly radio program with Angela Kokott, host of Calgary Today for our segment, “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating.
Listen to episode 68 part one “Three Ways to Make Your Veggies and Fruit Stay Fresher Longer” here:
Listen to episode 68 part two “Three Ways to Make Your Veggies and Fruit Stay Fresher Longer” here:
We all know we need to eat enough veggies and fruit and it sure helps when they are crisp and fresh. If you have ever found yourself buying a load of veggies and fruits only to find them rotten and have to toss them out, here are three strategies that can help reduce food waste:
1. Make a supper meal plan starting with the veggies
Often when I ask people what they are having for supper later today they don’t have an answer and if they do they often don’t mention the veggie. Usually the response is that they are having “steak, chicken or pasta.”
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before your go to bed is what is for supper tomorrow? As you begin thinking of this idea be sure to check your fridge inventory to determine what produce needs used first. Then pair a protein and a grain or starch to balance the meal.
For example if your red peppers need used then you might decide to do black bean quesadillas, grilled peppers and chicken on a bun with a side salad, or alternatively make a veggie frittata.
2. Buy enough for one-week maximum
Although there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb for produce that has a long shelf life such as root veggies, squash, potatoes, onions and citrus fruits, most produce is best when purchased and eaten within a few days.
Just because a large bag of pears or colossal bag of potatoes is a good deal doesn’t mean it is necessarily best. In fact you may experience what researchers call sensory specific satiety, which can be summarized as the more variety for our senses, the more we eat. You may find your family consumes more veggies and fruit when there is more variety than the same volume of produce with little selection.
3. Store things properly
- Some fruits ripen further once harvested because they produce a natural gas called ethylene. To ripen items such as apples, tomatoes and banana place in a brown bag at room temperature away from light. Plastic bags do not work to ripen fruit and instead trap moisture and air which can lead to quicker spoilage. To slow ripening place in the refrigerator and or keep away from other veggies and fruit that are already ripe.
- Fresh fruits and veggies (except some lettuce and spinach) have a natural protective coating and therefore produce should not be washed until you are planning on eating it. Washing in advance even if you will be removing the peel or skin leads to faster spoilage.
- Whole heads of lettuce such as Romaine, leaf lettuce and spinach will keep fresher (about a week) if you wash them first, dry in a salad spinner or with paper towel and the store whole un-torn leaves in a sealed container or plastic bag.
- Collards, kale and chard as well as salad mixes purchased in an airtight container should be refrigerated as is and washed when ready for use.
To be sure your veggies and fruit are stored for maximum freshness try some of these tips:
- Tomatoes – store on the counter (not in the fridge since cold temperatures reduce flavor and stops ripening).
- Asparagus – store in the fridge standing up in a mug or measuring cup with some water
- Corn – keep in the husks for 2-3 days since once husked it needs to be consumed quicker. The sooner you eat corn once picked the better since natural sugars turn to starch.
- Garlic – store at room temperature in a cool, dry and dark place (refrigeration causes sprouting).
- Apples – store refrigerated as they soften 10 times faster when at room temperature. Apples can last 2 or more weeks and sometimes for months in perforated plastic bags in crispers.
- Avocados – to maximize flavor store avocados on the counter until ripe and then they can be stored in the refrigerator 2-5 days.
- Potatoes – only new potatoes should be stored in the fridge. For mature potatoes store in a paper bag in a dark, dry and cool place (refrigeration causes dark spots and an unpleasant sweet flavor when cooked). For all potatoes keep away from heat since this can cause sprouting and keep away from light, which can cause green spots to occur that must be cut away before consuming.
- Onions – store in a dark, dry and cool place or refrigerate and keep away from other fruits and veggies (especially carrots, apples, grapes,) since they can impart their flavor easily especially once cut.
- Herbs – place stems in water and cover with a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Fresh basil is cold sensitive so keep at the front of the fridge.
For a detailed list of tips on veggie and fruit storage visit the Canadian Produce Marketers Association handy home storage guide: http://www.cpma.ca/Files/CPMA.HomeStorageGuide.English.pdf