Handy tips for storing fresh produce

DSCN2628Fruits and Vegetables are often stored improperly. Improper storage causes fresh fruits and veggies to go bad, very quickly. Did you know American’s toss about 20% of vegetables, and 15% of fruit they buy? (Ehhhh)

We’re going to talk about how to best store some common types of produce, for immediate or very soon use when you get it home. ((Hopefully it comes in a pretty little Sweet Basil Farms Market Basket bag))

Fruits and vegetables should not be stored together for longterm. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables. (Think of the old “one bad apple” adage.)

Vegetables basics: Before storing, always make sure to remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.

Fruits basics: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

Apples: For every 10 degrees above 30°F, the apples’ lifespan decreases dramatically. Do not want the apples’ temperature to fall below 30°F, however, because that will make them freeze and turn to mush when they’re thawed. Their cell walls will all collapse. (if this happens, don’t throw them away, use them for a recipe like bread or applesauce.) Apples are best stored somewhere around 30-35°F, in a humid environment. If storing apples in the fridge, place them inside a crisper drawer and lay a slightly dampened paper towel on top of the apples, to keep the humidity higher. Set ready to eat apples on the counter, but out of direct sunlight.

Bananas: Store loose or hang, in a dry and cool area, out of direct sunlight. To ripen bananas faster, place in a bag. To ripen even faster (for cooking purposes) place in a ziploc bag, seal, leave set out (room temperature).

Berries: Wash the berries in a diluted vinegar bath (1 cup vinegar plus 3 cups water) and spin them dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels until they are completely dry. Store the cleaned berries in a sealable container lined with paper towels, leaving the lid open a little to allow moisture to escape. (The vinegar destroys bacteria and mold spores on the berries, helping them stay fresh longer.)

Broccoli and cauliflower: should be refrigerated.

Cabbage: refrigerate.

Sweet Corn: Refrigerate to keep kernels from sprouting. (it’s just trying to do it’s job!)

Citrus: Oranges, lemons, etc. keep on counter or ventilated bowl

Grapes: Grapes are best stored in a paper bag (or perforated plastic) in the refrigerator. They will last up to 1 to 2 weeks. Rinse and dry completely if you see any mold spores, them refrigerate.

Leafy Greens: should be refrigerated, rinsing is okay if allowed to completely dry.

Peaches and other stone fruit: If unripe, allow to sit out in a well ventilated area. If fruit is ripe or close to ripe, refrigeration will maximum freshness time.

Root vegetables: like potatoes, onions and garlic should be kept in a dry, dark area. Think root cellar! DO NOT store onions with the potatoes, onions will cause potatoes to decay quickly, unless you like science fair worthy clean ups.

Squash and zucchini: should be rinsed only if dirty, then refrigerated.

Tomatoes: Store in a breathable, cool and dry location. Once ripe, refrigeration will lengthen life of the tomato.

Several fruits and vegetables produce an ethylene gas, which causes other produce around them to ripen faster. Good if you want to eat something now, bad if you need it to last! These are some items that produce ripening agents: peaches, tomatoes, un-ripe bananas, avocado, and cantaloupe. Produce highly susceptible to ethylene, are broccoli, greens, sweet potatoes, and peppers. If you want to speed up the ripening process, grab one of the high ethylene producers, your unripe fruit and a brown paper bag. Tightly close the bag, close and let it sit for a day or two. Voila. Instantly ready to eat!

So now you know about keeping common fruits and  vegetables fresh for days, but what about when life hits you with something unexpected? You have fresh produce that you had big plans for? Then, you only need to decide to freeze, can, or dry it.  Freezing is normally the easiest option, plus it retains the highest amount of vitamins and minerals for later use. We’ll walk you through freezing tips and techniques in our next episode.

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ENJOY!!  2 Corinthians 5:21

Eat healthy and grow “America Strong!” Order your Market Basket now! www.sweetbasilfarms.com.

We (Sweet Basil Farms) are an 80 acre working farm, consisting of large vegetable, fruit and herb gardens, fruit orchards and livestock. We put great emphasis on natural gardening, growing and livestock management practices. We raise and breed Pyredoodles, Great Pyrenees and Standard Poodles. We also breed and sell poultry, pet pigs, pygmy goats and over 300 varieties of bearded irises and so much more. We are proud of our school partnerships members of Georgia Grown, and believe strongly in helping to promote our fellow farmers, producers and growers and our local economy.

We, both David and I, have always had a passion for growing flowers and plants, deeply rooted from our Grandmothers’ teachings. We, like everyone, began to make a more conscience effort to eat healthy and naturally grown fresh food. Since we have 80 acres, we began by adding a “small” acre and a half vegetable garden. When people began driving an hour or two, just to buy our home grown tomatoes and cucumbers, we realized there was a real need in many communities for busy families like ours.

An 1840’s General Store situated on our property. Because it is right next to my garden spot, and had a porch to cool off in our hot Georgia summer, it quickly became our on-site “Farmers Market”. The old General Store, once the central hub for a bustling railroad community, also served many important roles in the community of Goggans, and was even a United States Post Office (until the 1960’s). This building is a Historical landmark, and sits adjacent to the old “Doctor’s Building”, which is rumored to have served as a Courthouse, jail, and dentist office. There is a church and cemetery where the founding families of “Goggans” were laid to rest. The wagon trail road where the townsfolk would ride down to the creek, is still visible in the winter. The history on our property, rich with farming and community purpose, greatly inspired us to serve our community in a new and exciting way. We believe the old General Store served it’s greatest purpose, by inspiring our Farmers Market To You program.

 James 2:14-26  tells us that our faith is dead without works. Our business model is based upon that. The first fruits of our harvest is always given to God. While it is not necessarily the “temple” as it was thousands of years ago, there are many worthy organizations in our community with structures in place, which help us to effectively share the fresh healthy fruits and vegetables with the people in need.

This recipe blog post by Tisha Johnson Matthews, of Sweet Basil Farm & Gardens. Special thanks to J. David Matthews, of Barnesville, Georgia for support and patience with all that I try and test.

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