How to store fresh produce

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Today we went on our fortnightly trip to Altus to collect the awesomest produce from our Food Co-op.  Check. It. Out.  Because of the vast amount of food we get every time and the fact that we need to make it stretch over 2 weeks, I live for ULTRA PRODUCTIVITY AND PREPARATION…every second Saturday (the other ones, I sleep in).

When we first started buying our produce this way, I would get to the second week and we’d be running out or everything would be dead and slimy.  I HATE waste and I love food, so this made me pretty sad and I decided I needed to up my game and devote some time to prepping our vegetables and fruits in a way that would see them last, stay fresh and be easy to access/use/eat at any given time.  I now consider myself pretty versed in produce storing (only because I’ve failed a billionty times) and I would really like to pass on the things I have learned and the things that have NOT worked, even though the internet said it would.

First things first, our food co-op.  Bountiful Baskets is a fantastic organization established in most states, so the chances of your county having a location is pretty high.  The prices are incredible, the people are wonderful and the produce is always amazing (as you can see above).  As an example, a standard basket (approx 50/50 fruits and veg) goes for $15.  You can order up to 5 baskets, and you can upgrade to organic for $10 extra.  Every ‘offering’ they will have a number of extra add-ons to choose from, all optional of course.  The picture your see above is our haul from today, all up we spent about $48.  They also have a wonderful unrefined coconut oil that they offer every so often and I have to say, IT’S MY FAVE.  You can sign up free of charge to Bountiful Baskets here.

Okay, onto our next deal – storing your produce in a way that will preserve freshness, keep your fridge and brain organized and extend the life of your food.  I’m going to list tips for the produce I got today, however if you have any questions about how to store another type of fruit or vegetable, leave your query in the comments sections and I’ll try to get back to you in a timely manner!

Washing

I cannot stress enough how important it is to never skip this step.  Whether your produce is organic or not, it’s just extra peace of mind that your food is clean, free of slugs and bugs, dirt and germs transferred from the hands that have handled it.  The rule of thumb is to wash everything with a skin that you eat – so don’t bother with oranges, cantaloupe, banana, pumpkin etc.  If you eat the skin, chuck it in (…to the water, that’s my rhyme).

I usually scrub out both sides of my sink with bi-carb, fill with water and add a GOOD slosh of Apple Cider Vinegar (the recommended ratio is 1 cup of acv to water) and then pile the fruit and veg into the water to soak for about 5-7 minutes.  During the course of those 5-7 minutes, be sure to poke, agitate and swish your produce about, making sure the water/acv solution is getting all up in there.  If you have any particularly dirty veggies or fruits, get your potato scrubber out and go to town.  Pesticides can hide in nooks and crannies too, you know.

In the case of big, leafy vegetables, I usually give these a dip in the solution for about 2 minutes, then chop and rinse/spin in my salad spinner.

Storing

I’m going to list this by vegetable, so bear with me.

Things you’ll definitely be needing:

Paper towel
Zip lock bags (big and little)
Storage containers
Clean tea towel

Stone fruit and Apples
Dry off with clean towel and place in a bowl and onto the top shelf of your fridge.  The temp up there is perfect and keeping them in a bowl, directly in your eye line will remind you that the fruit is available and you can snack on that instead of nasty things.  Ideally, it is best to keep these kinds of fruit out on the counter, but in Oklahoma the weather is just too hot and things go bad in the blink of an eye.  Come winter, we’ll be going back to unrefrigerated.

Bananas
Bananas can be tricky.  To keep them from ripening too fast, you can go ahead and separate them all and don’t store them close together.  I usually keep a bunch on the counter and a bunch in the fridge.  Any that pass their prime eating stage can be cut up, put into a zip lock bag and put in the freezer for smoothies or ice cream.  If you find you have gnats in your kitchen due to storing your bananas (and any other fruit) out on the counter, simply place an open, wide mouth jar in a corner in your kitchen.  Fill it 1/4 full of Apple Cider Vinegar with a squeeze of dish soap.  Those critters will be 100% gone within a couple of days.

Summer squash, zucchini, carrots & cucumber
These can be quite hearty, though I’d suggest to use them within the week.  To prolong their life, don’t wash until right before use or 1-2 days before.  I find that they store best in a lined crisper drawer.

Pineapple
Easy!  They don’t need washing and you can store them either on the counter or in the fridge.  If you’re like me and get 3-4 at a time, you can keep one or two on the counter and the rest on the top shelf of the fridge.  You don’t want to move them to the lower shelves as it gets colder down there, which will cause the pineapple to shrivel a lot quicker.  Also, you’ll probably forget about them down there.

Blueberries, strawberries and any other berries
Here is where my real frugality comes in.  Dump them all into your sink full of ACV solution, they’ll only need 7 minutes.  Rinse and KEEP the containers they came in, dry them and line with paper towel (a good quality one.  Budget paper towel will rip and stick to your food).  After the 7 minutes, fish out of your sink (I use a stainless steel strainer to get them all quickly) and dump out onto some paper towel.  Pat dry and let sit for 5 minutes to air dry.  Then place back into towel lined containers and store on the top shelf.  Consume within the week, but if you find yourself slow on the intake, place into a zip lock bag and freeze.

Celery
This stuff is amazing and keeps its crunch for quite a while when treated right.  After washing, scrubbing, rinsing and drying, cut into stalks (save base to either regrow, compost or use in stock) and place into an airtight container for storage on the middle or bottom shelf of your fridge.

Leafy Greens
This includes Kale, any type of lettuce, asian greens and anything else green and leafy.  As mentioned above, I give these a quick soak (and rub) in the ACV solution, then chop, place in salad spinner, rinse and spin.  Once dry (you can pat dry if it’s still a bit damp), store in an airtight container or zip lock bag and keep on the middle or front-bottom shelf.

Broccoli and Cauliflower
When washing these ones, place upside down.  Once rinsed and dried you can place on shelf as is (if you plan on using soon) or wrap in plastic wrap/put in a zip lock bag and store on bottom shelf.  I tend to chop the stalks off my broccoli and store them separately.  It makes for easier storage and easier use.

Tomatoes
Once thoroughly dried, place into bowl and store either on counter or on top shelf of fridge, depending on the weather.  They taste a million times better when stored at room temperature, but lately my kitchen has been a hot box and they weren’t lasting, so I’m using the fridge option until fall.

Peppers, jalapeños, chillies and everything else that appears to be from this family
Once dry, either store in lined crisper draw or zip lock bag (I tend to keep the smaller ones in sip lock bags, just to keep them together).  I often get excessive amounts of these and don’t get to use them all in fresh salsa before they start softening up. Remember, these are FANTASTIC sautéed – I have them with my omelet in the morning – and you can also make them into a delicious, pro-biotic snack by pickling them using this method.

Snap peas, beans etc
Once fished out of ACV solution, pat dry and store in paper-towel lined zip lock bag.  Store on middle shelf of your fridge.

Brussel sprouts and cabbage
After soaking and drying, store in zip lock bag on bottom shelf.  I often have trouble ever using these items, but I have recently discovered the easy art of sour kraut (a method I will be posting soon, once mine is fully fermented) and thinly slicing brussels and sautéing in coconut oil with garlic and ginger is AMAZING (trust me).

Herbs/Watercress
This is a big one.  I have wasted soooooo many herbs trying to figure out an efficient way to store them.  The internet even told me to store them in a jar of water, in the fridge, covered loosely with a zip lock bag.  That DID NOT work.  Only two methods ever have.  For fresh herbs, clean gently with paper towel and a little water/acv, dry and then wrap in (new, dry) paper towel, place in a zip lock bag and seal to be airtight.  Store on top shelf.  If you don’t seem to use fresh herbs quick enough, clean as specified, chop roughly and place into a zip lock bag.  Store in the freezer for herbs on hand whenever you wish (obviously to be used in cooking, not fresh meals, juice/smoothies or garnish).

It should be noted that while I use a few zip lock bags in this process, I am super frugal about it.  Once I have used something up, the bag gets rinsed and stuck to my kitchen window to dry (if you wet the outside enough, it will stick just fine).  Try to be mindful and re-use everything you can!  The earth and your wallet will thank you.

Again, if I have missed a certain fruit or vegetable that you would like to know about, leave a comment below and I’ll answer as soon as I can.

Well, this has been a long winded post, but I sure hope it helps some of you to get more out of your fresh produce!

Posted in Budget, Food
4 comments on “How to store fresh produce
  1. Allison says:

    Thank you for such useful information about washing and storing produce. I am excited about trying this out. I have one question. What is the “bi-carb” that you use to wash out your sink? I have never heard that word before. Thanks.

  2. Aden says:

    Genius!

    Going to use this info…. i love fresh produce but hate buying more than a couple of days supply for reasons that are solved above.

    :)

  3. Lisa says:

    Amy, I’m very happy to run across your very helpful information. Thank you for sharing your well-tested tips for veggie storing. And, I love that you used the term “tea towel.” Most people under 40 don’t know what I’m talking about as they usually just say “kitchen towel.” :) Keep up the great work!

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I am Amylee - Maker, married to a fellow Maker, mama to a mess in a tutu and big time dreamer in small town Oklahoma.  I wish I was stylish enough to have a fashion blog, but I might just write a lot about coffee.

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