The summer is a fabulous time to eat fresh and locally grown produce. Farmer’s markets are in full swing and it seems like even the pickiest of eaters are enjoying fresh blueberries and strawberries.
If you are lucky, as I am, to belong to a community supported agriculture program or CSA, then you are also enjoying the ease of sampling and eating locally grown produce chosen for you based on seasonality and even weather. However, as hard as I try, I always end up throwing out produce that I had fully intended to eat, but by the time I got around to it had already spoiled. I had the opportunity to sit down with Alan Weinberg, the owner of Alan’s Orchard, and he taught me the best ways to preserve my produce.
Did you know that you should always keep apples in the fridge but you should never keep tomatoes in the fridge? I certainly didn’t. Before talking with Alan, I had always kept my apples in a decorative bowl on my table and my tomatoes in the crisper!
Here are few more tips I learned from Alan on produce preservation.
Blueberries: Keep blueberries in their original container in the refrigerator if eating in a few days. Do not wash. For slightly longer storage, remove any damaged berries and add a paper towel to your sealed container.
Broccoli: Store broccoli unwashed in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can add holes to the bag to allow for some air circulation.
Carrots: First, immediately remove the greens/tops. They will continue to draw away moisture from the carrot. Carrots love the cold, so place unwashed carrots in a plastic bag in the coolest part of your refrigerator. Carrots will begin to become soft if they are exposed to warm air or their tops draw away the moisture.
Corn: Eat it soon! But, if you are not going to eat it quickly, keep the husks on and store in the refrigerator to slow the sugar to starch conversion process.
Cucumbers: Store in the refrigerator. Eat within 3 to 4 days.
Golden Beets: You can keep the beet greens attached if you are going to eat them. The greens are very nutritious and can be prepared like spinach or swiss chard. If you choose not to eat the greens, remove them (cut them 2 inches from the beet) immediately or they will continue to draw needed moisture from the beet. Do not wash beets before storing. Place the beet in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 10 days. (photo credit here)
Peaches: Store peaches on the kitchen counter at room temperature out of the sunlight until they reach the softness/ripeness you desire. To quicken the ripening process, place peaches in a paper bag. When they are ready they will become softer and more fragrant. When ripe, you can store in the crisper bin of your refrigerator if you aren’t eating them that day.
Scallions: Place your green onions in a jar and fill with a small amount of water to cover the roots. Place the onions near your kitchen window. The scallions will continue to grow. You should change the water if it becomes cloudy. You can also put the onions in the fridge in a glass jar.
Spinach: Refrigerate unwashed spinach in a loosely wrapped plastic bag. Like with many vegetables, moisture can speed decay. (photo credit here)
Strawberries: Local strawberries have no shelf life. Eat them fast or freeze them!
Tomatoes: The first thing I learned in the produce business was to never refrigerate tomatoes. So, the best place to store tomatoes is, indeed, on the counter at room temperature out of the sunlight. They continue to develop flavor until maturation peaks a few days after picking. (photo credit here)
Zucchini: Store zucchini unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer for three to four days and do not wash until you are ready to use. At the first sign of softness, use immediately. (photo credit here)