It is estimated that the average American family wastes 25 percent of their groceries. The most common of these are vegetables. Every week we get all these great veggies fresh from the farm but once you bring them home what are the best ways to make sure they stay fresh? You might keep them in the refrigerator, maybe on the counter, in a paper bag, in a container, wrapped in paper towels, or even wrapped in a linen towel…it can be confusing so here are some tips to help.
First a little bit of science. Certain fruits and vegetables produce a gas called ethylene as they ripen. This gas can prematurely ripen foods that are sensitive to it. Therefore, try to separate and keep ethylene-producing foods away from ethylene-sensitive ones. Here’s a list of examples:
- Honeydew melons
- Green beans
- Lettuce and other greens
- Summer squash
Now let’s focus on storage. Store your vegetables without washing. If you prefer to wash them, be sure they are dry before storing. Many use the paper towel in a plastic bag method. Although, I prefer other “greener” alternative such as wrapping them in a linen towel. Below is a list of spring veggies that can be stored without plastic.
Remove their green tops, rinse, drain, and put them in a closed container with plenty of moisture, wrapped in a damp towel. Store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator with the highest humidity. Carrots should be stored away from fruits such as apples and pears.
Wrapped in a moist towel in the refrigerator at a temperature between 45°F and 50°F for up to a week. Do not store with apples or tomatoes. If you’re planning on eating them within a day or two after buying them they should be fine left out in a cool room.
Stored under optimum conditions in a dark, cool, dry place with plenty of ventilation, garlic will last from several weeks to one year. Ideally, try to use fresh garlic within a few weeks and do not refrigerate unless the garlic has been peeled or chopped.
Store in burlap, brown paper bags, away from light, in the coolest, non-refrigerated, and well-ventilated part of the house. Don’t store onions and potatoes together, as the gases they each give off, will cause the other to decay.
Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.
Summer squash should be kept cool but not cold, about 41° F to 50° F with good humidity. Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut.
Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated place, in single layers. Don’t stack them. If the onions at home show signs of sprouting, cut away the sprouts and use them immediately. Use fresh onions (like Walla Walla) within a week.
Is difficult to store well as it does not like the cold, or to be wet for that matter. Keep stems in water; will discolor if kept in refrigerator for 10 days. The best method here is an airtight container or left out on a cool counter.
Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, (be sure to keep the greens!) Leaving any tops on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in and open container with a wet towel on top
Left out on a cool counter is fine up to a week, in the crisper otherwise. Peel off outer leaves if they start to wilt. Cabbage might begin to lose its moisture after a week, so best used as soon as possible.
Remove the greens (store separately) so they don’t draw out excess moisture from the roots and place them in an open container in the fridge with a wet towel placed on top.
Remove the greens (store separately) same as radishes and beets, store them in an open container with a moist cloth.
Finally, green leaves. Prepare greens by cutting them into bite-sized pieces, washing them and shaking off the excess water in a salad spinner. Then spread the greens out on clean kitchen hand towels to air dry for a few hours. Once ready, roll the towels up with the greens inside. Secured the rolls with rubber bands and store in the bottom shelf of the fridge. This will keep the greens moist but not damp keeping them fresh and crisp. Kale, collards, and chard also do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.