The Best Ways to Store Fruits and Vegetables

comments (1) March 3rd, 2015

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jgthegardener jgthegardener, member
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There's nothing worse to witness in your kitchen than once-fresh fruits and vegetables going bad. If it pains you to throw away spoiled produce, read on: We've created a guide to storing your fruits and vegetables so that they last longer. Whether you're looking to extend fresh products' shelf life or preserve them for months down the road, you'll find out just how to do it.

How to Store Fresh Produce

Most people buy or grow fruits and vegetables in order to eat them relatively quickly; however, after a few days on the kitchen counter or in the fridge, your selections might look a little worse for wear. Whether they're ripe to the point of spoilage, limp or shriveled, you could end up tossing them before you get to enjoy their delicious, fresh taste.

The main rule in fruit-and-vegetable storage is to keep fruits as far away from the vegetables as you can. Have you ever wondered why your refrigerator has a separate drawer for fruits and vegetables? It's because, as fruits ripen, they emit ethylene gas. This gas works as a ripening hormone, which affects every product with which it comes into contact. In order to ensure a nice, healthy life for your vegetables, keep them far from your fruits.

It's also important to ensure that your vegetables can breathe. If they come packaged in a plastic bag or wrap, poke holes so that they get some air. Better yet, use containers specifically designed to store fruits and veggies. You should also avoid washing your fruits and vegetables until you're ready to use them, as the excess water often beckons unwanted bacteria to take up residence on your produce.

In order to avoid all of the above scenarios, it's important to know where to store your fruits and vegetables. Here is a quick reference list:

Refrigerator:

Apples

Asparagus (best if bottom of asparagus is in water or a wet cloth but open on top)

Bell Peppers

Broccoli

Celery

Carrots

Lettuce

Limes

Melon

Oranges

 

Kitchen Counter:

Avocado

Bananas

Garlic

Nectarines

Onions (unless already cut)

Peaches

Tomatoes

 

Pantry:

Potatoes

Rutabaga

Shallots

Sweet Potato

Watermelon (if too big for the fridge)

How to Can Produce

Now, you might be in search of storage that lasts longer than a few days or weeks. Canning is one great way to ensure that the fruits of your garden last well into the winter and beyond. At the end of harvest, it's a great way to store and use excess fruit instead of tossing it in the trash.

If you're looking for good canning candidates, there are plenty. In fact, the list ranges from apples, pears, rhubarb, peaches and plums, to green beans, tomatoes, peas and spinach.

To start, you'll have to sanitize your canning jars in boiling water and your lids in hot water. After they dry, fill each can with the fruit, vegetable, jam or other creation that you'd like to can. Don't fill cans all of the way, as canning creates air inside of the container in order to keep it sealed and fresh.

After filling cans and tightening lids all of the way, place them inside of your canning vessel. You have two FDA-approved options when it comes to canning: a water-bath canner and a pressure canner. With the former, you'll submerge cans in hot water for a specified period of time. This method works best for fruits and other high-acidity foods. On the other hand, a pressure canner heats your cans by using a predetermined amount of pressure. This option is best for vegetables.

How to Dehydrate Produce

Another way to extend the life of your produce is to dry it out. Think of all the dried-up fruit and vegetable chips you see in grocery stores, such as apples, bananas, green beans, berries, cherries and sweet potatoes. Drying or dehydrating them creates a crispy snack that you can eat plain or sprinkle over salads, mix into cereal or use to sweeten your trail mix.

Drying works by removing the moisture from your produce without cooking it, extending its shelf life and altering its texture. The easiest way to dry fruit is to purchase a dehydrator, as it's the most foolproof and efficient way. If you're not ready to invest in one, pioneering preservers have figured out how to do it in a standard home oven.

The process is very simple: spread your fruit or vegetable over a baking pan and set your oven to its lowest temperature. It often takes between five and seven hours for your produce to be fully dehydrated with this method, but you're trading your own time for the cost of a professional dehydrator. Once you get the hang of it, you can try premarinating and spicing your fruits and vegetables so that the finished product has a bit more flavor. The possibilities are endless.

How to Freeze Produce

Finally, you can freeze fresh produce in order to have it readily available year-round. Imagine your grocery store's freezer aisles: What fruit or vegetable can'tyou find? It's hard to imagine any type of produce that can't be frozen, so long as you do it properly.

The key to tasty frozen produce is to freeze it at the peak of its ripeness; it's not going to get more or less tastier in the cold, after all. It's also important to ensure that your freezer is ice-cold so that your produce reaches its chill point as soon as possible. This stalls ice crystals from puncturing the skin of your produce, which can cause them to have a mushy texture when thawed.

When freezing fruit, pluck the best pieces from the bunch and place them on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer until all pieces have frozen. Then, transfer them into an airtight container where they'll stay snug until you're ready to eat them. Seasoned fruit-freezers suggest that you eat your fruit before it's entirely thawed so that it still has some of the crunch that you're used to from fresh produce. Even if you freeze each piece perfectly, it can still feel a little mushy when completely thawed.

As for vegetables, you should blanch them briefly and immediately submerge them in ice water so that they don't actually cook. This step protects the color and flavor of your produce; it also cleans your vegetable's surface. You'll then completely dry your veggies before storing them in airtight containers and freezing them, too. Although fruit is best when thawed post-freeze, most veggies can be thrown directly into boiling water, eaten and enjoyed.

It's vital that, no matter what you freeze and store, you keep your freezer's temperature constant. A regular drop and rise in temperature could change the flavor or consistency of your produce.

 

With these methods, you can enjoy the fruits – and vegetables – of your labor year-round.


posted in: storage, how to make veggies last longer, storing fruit, storing veggies

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