Picture from joesmithfarms.com
Fruits and vegetables are not cheap. Every time I find the limp celery that I planned on using the last stalks of for soup or the moldy peaches stuck in the back of my fruit and vegetable drawers I see dollar signs floating away. How do I store them AND use them up so I am not throwing away my money?
Tomatoes, Potatoes and Onion all emit ethylene gas as they ripen. Stored together they will ripen faster and rot faster. They should be stored in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator). Bottom cupboards or root cellars are good. They should also not be stored in the same cupboard or area of the cellar. Put them in separate cupboards or corners of the cellar. There is an Old Wives Tale that if you add an apple to the potatoes they will not grow eyes but this has been disproved. Left long enough they will grow eyes.
Now I tend to forget about my tomatoes. Potatoes and onions are pretty standard fare in my house so I keep the tomatoes on the counter once they are good and ripe and only buy a couple at a time so I can use them within a day or so.
Lettuces and Leafy Greens should be washed in cold water and thoroughly dried before packing in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel. You want to keep the moisture away from the greens so they do not get mushy but retain their crispness. Keep in refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Other Vegetables – Most other vegetables can be kept in the refrigerator and most will need to be used within a day or two such as eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms to retain their taste, texture and vitamins.
Plums, Nectarines, Peaches and Pears can all be ripened in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter until they have a bit of give to them when squeezed lightly. Then they should be stored in your refrigerator.
Pineapple sugar is concentrated at the base of the pineapple so turn it upside down and let it sit on your kitchen counter a day or two, out of the sun, before cutting it.
Bananas should be stored separately from your other fruit. They also emit ethylene gas as well just not as strong as potatoes and onions. They can hang on your counter for several days but will continue to ripen. They can be stored in the refrigerator which will slow the ripening but will turn the skins dark brown. Do not store them in a fruit or vegetable drawer as they will effect the ripening process of the other fruits and vegetables.
Berries generally tend to be very delicate and do not store well and should be eaten within a day or so of purchase for best flavor and texture. Blueberries are the exception to this. Gently wash all berries just prior to eating. Store in original containers until ready to use.
How do I make the most of my fruits and vegetables?
- Don’t over buy. If there is a great sale go back two, three or even four days during the week and buy smaller amounts that will not spoil before they can be used.
- Slice, dice or chop the vegetables before they go bad and freeze them for quick use during the week in casseroles, stir fries and soups. Check to see if they need to be blanched first as many do.
- Designate one or two days during the week as your “clean out” days for produce. Make salads, soups or stews with all the items you have leftover. If you don’t want to eat the soups or stews now freeze them for later this fall. Remember creamy soups tend not keep as well in the freezer.
Hopefully one or two of these ideas will help save you a bit of money on your produce!