9 September 2007

Storing fruit and vegetables

This is my flat bottomed fruit bowl that I use to store and ripen fruit on the kitchen bench. Using a flat bottomed bowl will allow you to store the fruit and veg without piling it on top of other things. Oh, and they might just be chocolates stored on the top with the macadamias. ; )

I always try to eat fruit and vegetables as fresh as possible but often there are times they need to be stored for a few weeks. I love giving scrap food to my chickens and worms but giving them a full lettuce or tomatoes because they're starting to rot is wasteful and against my frugal nature.

So how should we store fruit and vegetables until we eat them?

One of the problems with store bought fruit and vegies is that you don't know how fresh they are when you buy them. Get to know what is growing in your region in each season. There is a seasonal guide to fruit and veg in Australia here and an American guide here. An apple may have been kept in cold storage for a few months before you buy it, onions may be months old as well. When you buy your fresh produce, try to buy it from a road side stall or green grocer. Unlike the big supermarkets, they must turn over their produce quickly to remain in business. Look at what you buy and if there are signs of aging, don't buy it. Buy only undamaged produce and be careful not to squash or bruise it on the trip home. There is a guide to buying vegetables in the northern hemisphere here. Lots of info about fruit and vegetables in Australia here. What to look for when buying vegetables. A guide for storing fresh vegetables here.

If you grown your own, leave it on the tree, vine, bush or in the ground as long as possible without it going off. Things like corn and peas deteriorate rapidly as soon as they're picked, so if you're picking those things, make sure you eat them the day you pick them. If that's not possible, pick them on a day you can freeze them and pick just before you start your freezing session. Almost everything you'll freeze will need to be blanched before you freeze it. Blanching is just dropping the vegetables into a large amount of boiling water for a few minutes, then quickly removing them and dropping them into cold water with ice cubes, which stops the cooking. Blanching kills or slows down enzymes that spoil food. There is a good blanching guide here.

If you
want to eat your fruit and vegetables fresh, you'll need to store them in a few different ways. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic should not be refrigerated. Potatoes should be removed from the plastic bag, checked for damage - throw away any damaged or green ones, and place the potatoes in a basket or container that allows air in. Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Sweet potatoes may be stored on top of the potatoes.

Onions are the same, but store them in their own container in a cool, dry, dark place.

I store garlic with my tomatoes on the kitchen bench. Tomatoes tend to lose flavour in the fridge, so it's best to place them in a bowl and keep them on the bench. They will continue to ripen and will be best eaten when they're fully ripe. The red colouring in tomatoes, and all red fruit and veg, is very good for you so eat red fruits and vegetables when they're fully ripe.

Leafy greens - wash, shake the excess water off and store in a plastic bag or plastic container in the fridge.

Celery - wash, shake of excess water and wrap tightly in two sheets of aluminium foil. Have no celery sticking out, seal it up and store in the fridge and it will last, crisp and fresh for at least six weeks.

Root vegetables - always remove the green tops as they will take moisture from the root. Wash, dry completely and store in a plastic box in the fridge, or wrap in foil in a similar way to the celery.

Mushrooms - never wash them. Place in a non-plastic bowl and cover the bowl with a moist clean cotton cloth. Use within a week.

Citrus - if they're fresh and you'll eat them within a week, leave them on the bench in a bowl. They'll develop their true flavour if not in the fridge. If you're not sure how old they are, store in the fridge in the crisper.

Buy bananas fresh and eat them as soon as possible. Don't store them in the fridge as they'll go brown. If you don't think you'll eat the bananas soon, put them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Do not peel, store them in the freezer as they are. When you defrost them, you can use them in cakes and muffins. Guide to freezing fruits here.

Pears I leave on the bench to ripen properly.

Apples go in the crisper of the fridge.

Fruits like cantaloupe/rockmelon, papaya/paw paw and pumpkin, will store better in the fridge if you remove all the seeds after cutting them open.

Peaches and nectarines can be ripened on the bench. If they're ripe, store them in the fridge and eat asap .

Ripen avocados on the bench. When they're ripe, store in the fridge and eat asap.

If you have any good tips for storing fruit and vegies, please add them to the comment box. Thanks!

BTW, I'll be
contacting people about partners and assigning the remaining partners later today. If I don't yet have your email, please send it to me, or contact your partner via their email and let me know.
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