After shopping at a local roadside stand, the farmers market or picking up your CSA, you will probably have the season’s bounty on your hands. With such a variety of crops, it is typically not a great idea to just open the drawer of the fridge and let everything get comfy together. Here a few tips to organize the veggies for a more lively produce.
Under normal conditions, vegetables will surprise you with how long they last.
To wash or not to wash? Even the experts disagree when giving advice on washing garden produce. Some tell you not to wash before storage and some will tell you to wash off any garden dirt before even bringing produce into the home.
If you choose to wash produce before storage, be sure to thoroughly dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel. If you choose to store without washing, take care to shake, rub or brush off any garden dirt with a paper towel or soft brush while still outside. Never wash berries until you are ready to eat them. Storing fresh produce in plastic bags or containers. Keep your refrigerator fruit and vegetable bin clean. Keep your refrigerator at 40° F or less. If your refrigerator has a fruit and vegetable bin, use that, to store fresh produce away from raw meats, poultry or fish.
Cooling dramatically slows respiration and break-down processes in produce. Most of your produce would love to be refrigerated.
- Keep items like greens, cucumbers, beets, broccoli, all roots, peppers, even corn*, loosely wrapped in a plastic or vegetable bag.
*Keep corn wrapped in its husk.
- Cut the edible greens from crops like beets, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi, before storing. The greens will drain moisture from the roots if left attached.
- Remove rubber bands, twisty ties, and other fasteners from vegetables for better circulation.
- Keep fruits and vegetables separate. Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmons, pineapple, plantains, plums, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelon all release ethylene gas which will cause your remaining produce to spoil and change in flavor in proximity, especially sensitive greens. Try one of those ethylene “eggs” and report back to us.
- Try not to wash vegetables before storing. The extra water will create conditions that are too damp and not ideal for crisp, tasty vegetables. If washing before storing, make sure to dry produce as well as possible and store in the company of a dry paper towel.
- On the other hand, Prep for Easy Use. Wash your lettuce leaves for salad and spin them nice and dry when you receive them, it will make it easy and quick later, and you’re more likely to make the salads! Same for other things you want to use soon washed. You can also chop up items to store for quick use later.
- Wilted from rough travels? If your greens or other items had a rough ride home in a warm car, say, or a 90 degree day at the CSA, you can perk them up with a soak in a bowl of cold water before drying and putting them away.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Storage Chart
|Beans, green or yellow||Refrigerator crisper: up to 3 days||Store in plastic bags. Do not wash before storing. Wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly. Wash before preparation.|
|Broccoli||Refrigerator crisper: 3 to 5 days||Store in loose, perforated plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Radish, Turnips||Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 weeks||Remove green tops and store vegetables in plastic bags. Trim the taproots from radishes before storing. Wash before using.|
|Berries||Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days||Before storing berries, remove any spoiled or crushed fruits. Store unwashed in plastic bags or containers. Do not remove green tops from strawberries before storing. Wash gently under cool running water before using.|
|Chard||Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days.||Store leaves in plastic bags. The stalks can be stored longer if separated from the leaves. Wash before using.|
|Corn||Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 days||For best flavor, use corn immediately. Corn in husks can be stored in plastic bags for 1 to 2 days.|
|Cucumbers||Refrigerator crisper: up to 1 week||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Do not store with apples or tomatoes. Wash before using.|
|Herbs||Refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days||Herbs may be stored in plastic bags or place upright in a glass of water (stems down). Cover loosely with plastic bag.|
|Lettuce, spinach and other greens||Refrigerator crisper: 5 to 7 days for lettuce; 1 to 2 days for greens||Discard outer or wilted leaves. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper. Wash before using.|
|Melons||At room temperature until ripe Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days for cut melon||For best flavor, store melons at room temperature until ripe. Store ripe, cut melon covered in the refrigerator. Wash rind before cutting.|
|Nectarines, Peaches, Pears||Refrigerator crisper: 5 days||Ripen the fruit at room temperature, and then|
refrigerate it in plastic bags. Wash before eating.
|Peppers||Refrigerator crisper: up to 2 weeks||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Summer squash, patty pan||Refrigerator: 2-3 days||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Wash before eating.|
|Tomatoes||Room temperature; once cut, refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days||Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigeration makes them tasteless and mealy. Wipe clean and store tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight. Wash before eating. (Refrigerate only extra-ripe tomatoes you want to keep from ripening any further.) Store cut tomatoes in the refrigerator.|
Freezing some of your CSA bounty will let you taste out of season veggies all year long. Many items like tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, peppers, greens, zucchini, and the like, can all be stored in the freezer. Everything can be frozen direct, but some things will have longer, better freezer life if blanched.
For example, extra kale can be frozen and easily added to soups in the winter, try blanching the kale (or spinach or chard or basil etc.). Remove the bottom of the stems, wash the greens, and then follow the blanching steps below.
Blanching is a method to deactivate enzymes that reduce the storage life of frozen produce. Steam or boil produce in water for 2-3 minutes (time varies by produce, do a web search for how long to blanch your item). Then quickly plunge produce into cold water (ice in water is good) to prevent over-cooking (let soak for same amount of time you blanched to cool), and then drain and pat dry, bag in freezer bags, and label.
Save your blanching water for soups! I blanched snow peas and the water tasted like peas. Yum.
To blanch or not?
From what I can tell, blanching preserves the vitamins and nutrients in frozen vegetables, and color and texture. Blanching also kills some bacteria. Without blanching you will lose some nutritional value, not sure how much. Blanching also causes some nutritional loss itself (thus use your water as stock for soups!). You can freeze everything without blanching. Some fruits and vegetables have high enough acid that they don’t need to be blanched for nutritional preservation. Blanching takes time, so if you have no time, then just freeze direct and use earlier.
Cook more corn-on-the-cob than you can eat one night? It’s blanched already cut the corn off the cob and freeze it!
Some things you can freeze…
- Tomatoes can be frozen as is, whole. Their skin will peel off when thawed. Core or chop if desired.
- Peppers can be cut into large pieces and frozen directly.
- Onions can be frozen directly.
- Freezing herbs in water in ice-cube trays, chopped leaves or pureed, makes cubes that are perfect for adding to soups. You can also freeze them loose in a bag and take ’em out to chop up later.
- Berries are great to freeze because they make deliciously thick smoothies! Pare them first to remove inedible pieces like stems and pits. Freeze on trays, then transfer to bags, or freeze in serving-size bags.
Most importantly, make sure you freeze your produce as soon as possible while it is lively.