Storage Tips for Produce
Post by Paula Jahn, Co-owner and Registered Dietitian at Nourish Northwest
Farmer’s market season is here and good things are happening in backyard gardens. I see stray ripe strawberries in sidewalk garden boxes and know that we are about to emerge from our Pacific Northwest produce lull. In cooking classes, I often get questions about how to best store fruit and vegetables to extend their freshness and preserve nutrients. I’ve compiled a list of four categories of produce that are most common to our area and included the best way to store them. Of course, the ideal way is to pick or purchase from a local source and eat as soon as possible. When that’s not practical, or you have more chard from the garden than you know what to do with, follow these tips.
Berries are delicate creatures. A small speck of mold can infest and ruin a whole pint. They must be picked at the peak of ripeness because, unlike bananas and avocados, they do not ripen once harvested. There are two main DO NOTs when it comes to strawberries. First, do not wash until ready to eat. They absorb moisture, can become soggy and are more prone to mold. Second, do not refrigerate in an open container. They will dry out. To store, sort through and remove any berries with white fuzz. The best way to store strawberries is by layering them no more than two deep in a sealable container lined with paper towels. It is best to keep them at room temperature, but if you cannot eat them within a couple days, refrigerate for up to a week.
Blackberries and Raspberries
If strawberries are delicate, blackberries and raspberries are downright ethereal. Freezing is always an option, but if you really want fresh berries, try this vinegar rinse trick. Blackberries and raspberries can be stored in their containers in the open part of the fridge (not the crisper). They need air circulation to keep them from rotting from their own ethylene gas.
Lettuce, arugula and spinach are tenuous greens that can only keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Poke about 15 holes in a zip top plastic bag and place a paper towel along with the dry greens. Zip about three quarters of the way and store in the crisper drawer. Hearty greens such as kale and chard keep up to two weeks with this method. To freeze chard, collards, and other “cooking greens,” blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green and barely tender. Plunge into ice water and freeze. Add to soups and stews in the winter.
First of all, never ever store tomatoes in the refrigerator. The climate breaks down the flavor compounds and texture. Tomatoes ripen well off the vine. Wrap individually in tissue paper and place in a dark place until they are the color they are suppose to be.