lifestyle

Fresh Produce: Making Fruits and Vegetables Last Longer

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veggies in a bowlAre you trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet? High-quality fresh food (organic too) is definitely in right now...as it should be.

One of the major frustrations about buying fruits and vegetables is that they can be seen as wasted dollars if not properly stored.

On average, American families trash 14 percent of the food they buy, often because it spoils. Fresh produce can be very expensive and it has a tendency to spoil very quickly, in essence, making you throw your money in the trash.

Tips and Tricks for Maximizing the Life of Fresh Produce

Follow these tips and tricks to help you get the maximum life and flavor out of your fruits and vegetables.

Purchasing

  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
  • Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.
  • Choose fresh-cut product that is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that store well (i.e. potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, etc.)
  • Place fresh produce and meat products away from each other in the shopping cart to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Bag fresh produce and meat products separately.

Storing

  • Organize fruits and vegetables. People often toss produce into crispers together, but apples and some other fruits give off gas called ethylene that speeds ripening in vegetables. Store some of the items separately so that your vegetables don't ripen too fast.
  • Store fruits and vegetables susceptible to drying out in a perforated or unsealed plastic bag to maintain environment yet still allow air to circulate.
  • Don't wash produce before placing in the refrigerator. The dampness can make the product mold and rot faster.
  • Know which foods need room temperature. People tend to keep most of their fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. However, cold temperatures can actually damage some produce, like squash, tomatoes and oranges.
  • Remove any fruits or vegetables that show signs of spoiling to prevent further spreading.
  • Use your crisper properly. It allows for a more humid environment to safely store fruits and vegetables. Be careful, though, because too much humidity will cause condensation leading to bacteria buildup. Adjust the crisper for higher humidity (by lowering the air flow) when storing greens. Adjust to medium humidity when storing thin-skinned fruits and vegetables. Use low humidity when storing citrus fruits.

Preparing

  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables just before cooking or eating.
  • Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel.
  • Scrub fruits and vegetables with a scrub brush (when possible).
  • Use hot water when washing fruits and vegetables -- do not use dish washing detergent or antibacterial soap.
  • Use one cutting board for fruits and vegetables and a separate one for meat, poultry and fish.
  • Use different knives when cutting meat products and fresh produce.

Check out these pages for information on how to store herbs and spices.

How do you make your fresh produce last longer?

Jen Tilley has an insatiable appetite for all things related to baking and cooking. She is the author, photographer and recipe developer on How To: Simplify, a blog that shares tips, tricks and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. She enjoys sharing recipes that require very few ingredients and only a small amount of prep and cook time, all of which make time spent in the kitchen simple and enjoyable. Find her online at How To: Simplify and @HowToSimplify.

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Jen Tilley

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