How to Keep Fresh Vegetables Fresh Longer

Today's tips: How to store fresh vegetables to stay fresh longer, to keep longer, all to minimize waste.

One way to save money on groceries -- something we're all paying considerable attention to thanks to skyrocketing food prices -- is to follow Ben Franklin's maxim, Waste not, want not. I'm especially aware of this during summer, when the temptation of the Saturday morning farmers market surpasses my inclination to cook once home. I've learned the hard way that my best rhythm is to limit purchases to just a couple of days, then, with any luck, visit the Wednesday market for the rest of the week.

So I pored through the fresh produce tips in the July-August 2008 issue of Cook's Illustrated in an article called, "How to Keep Produce Fresher Longer". Here's a sampling but I do recommend picking up an issue for the complete story that includes tips on keep fruit fresh, too, also some of the science behind their tips about keeping produce fresh longer.

See, this is why I love Cook's Illustrated! You do subscribe, don't you?

REFRIGERATOR MICROCLIMATES

A refrigerator has 'microclimates'. Cool! My dad gave me a wireless indoor outdoor thermometer for Christmas so I put the outside sensor into the fridge, never once thinking it would report the temperature all the way through the refrigerator walls. But it did -- so I was able to measure the interior temperature of the three 'microclimate' areas in a refrigerator. (I love-love-love this thermometer, by the way. It would make a great gift for other weather watchers. But using it with the fridge makes me realize that it might help monitor the temperature around a bowl of bread that's rising, too, since I'm always fussing with whether it's too warm or too cold. I digress, sorry.)

COLD ZONE The 'cold zone' is the coldest spot in the refrigerator, and is the top and middle shelves, toward the back, according to Cook's Illustrated. In the cold zone, the temperature can dip below 34F.

MODERATE ZONE The 'moderate zone' is the middle and bottom shelves, toward the front. Here the temperature will be above 37F.

HUMID ZONE The 'humid zone' is the crisper drawer, which is supposed to keep a humid environment that helps keep produce with high water content fresher though can hasten spoilage if the humidity gets too high. Supposedly, there are refrigerators have vents to regulate the humidity.

ZONES IN MY FRIDGE Hmm. Well, when I measured the temperature in my fridge, the 'cold zone' and the 'moderate zones' were both 35F so I'm adjusting the temperatures so that the different zones do have different temperatures. The crispers are both at 37F and don't have vents. Newer fridges may be better? Mine is nearly 11 years old and was the only one that would fit through the doors: trust me, I know, three fridges were delivered, two didn't fit. I guess that salesguy should have believed my measurements, yes? I digress.

WHICH VEGETABLES SHOULD BE STORED WHERE

BEST in the FRONT of the FRIDGE: corn (after wrapping in a wet paper bag placed inside a plastic bag) and peas

BEST in the CRISPER: artichokes, asparagus (after trimming the ends and placing upright in shallow cool water, then covering with plastic), beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chiles, cucumbers, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce (after washing and drying, rolling loosely in a clean kitchen towel inside an unzipped zip-lock bag), mushrooms, peppers, radishes, scallions, summer squash, turnips, zucchini

BEST on the COUNTER: tomatoes (stored upside down)

BEST in the PANTRY (where it's both dark and cool): garlic, onions, potatoes, shallots, sweet potatoes, winter squash

WHEN to WASH VEGETABLES

Wash vegetables just before using them since moisture encourages mold which encourages spoilage; if you do wash beforehand, dry before putting into the fridge.

ORIGINAL PACKAGING

Cook's Illustrated suggests storing produce in their original containers which have often been especially designed to keep the produce fresher. (Note: Their story does seem to be oriented to supermarket vegetables which have been bred for long shelf lives under certain conditions.)

A-Z of Vegetables

So now that we know where to store our vegetables to keep them fresh longer, we'll need more recipes to cook them too. I know just the source, right here on A Veggie Venture.




A Veggie Venture is home of 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2008


7 comments:

Great tips, Alanna.

I continue to love your recipes as they are so easily adaptable! For example, last night I used some of my farmers market goodies and stir-fried green beans (gleaned from an older recipes but sans garlic which I don't like), added carrots, beet greens (read about them on a recent post), leftover grilled chicken, some herbs, and served all slightly warm over red leaf lettuce in a lemon vinaigrette.

Very informative post. I do envy my friends who have vegetable gardens and can pick just what they need every day, but for the rest of us, it's great to know how to make our farmstand and CSA produce last longer.

Thanks for this, Alanna. I had read the CI article, but just yesterday I was trying to remember which issue it was (so many cooking magazines...). You're right, the bright, fresh produce at each market is overwhelming, and it's hard not to buy it all just because it's so pretty. Hopefully next time my eyes are bigger than my refrigerator, these tips will help out.

Have you ever tried the Evertfresh or Debbie Meyers green bags? I've been using them (the Evertfresh bags) for about 5 years (I think). They really do work! I've had lettuce (washed, spun dry, wrapped in paper towels) in green bags last for at least two weeks. I had an eggplant come in my organic produce delivery, which usually should be used within three days, last for 9 days (still good when I sliced and grilled for sandwiches). Apples and oranges have lasted at least two months. I love those bags! I wash and air dry them between uses. They can be re-use about 10 times.

Thank you for this article. I thought it was very helpful. I love your writing. It’s funny and I loved reading it, it was a pleasure. By the way I digress too.

Have a great day.

Question: How do you store such things in your crisper as this? BEST in the CRISPER: (after trimming the ends and placing upright in shallow cool water, then covering with plastic).
My crisper is not designed to hold anything other than laying it down.

Anonymous ~ My crisper drawer isn't tall enough for asparagus, even when trimmed, so I just use a tall tupperware container in the main section. Works like a charm!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna