During these times we are trying to limit our need to go to the shops, limit our time in the shops and trying to maximize the quality and lifespan of the food we buy. We want to make sure we choose the freshest and best foods and store them in a way that will optimize their shelf-life.
This useful information holds true, even when we are not restricted by COVID-19… I mean, who wants to visit the grocery store every day?!
These are my suggestions for identifying the best quality fresh fruits and vegetables, and how best to prolong their use.
Root vegetables – When it comes to buying root vegetables ensure there are no sprouts or shoots coming out of them as this means they are not fresh. Try purchasing ones with their leaves on as it helps to assess how fresh the vegetable is, however, cut off the leafy tips before storing as these utilize the roots nutrients and water to grow (the leaves can also be used in other dishes). Store root vegetables in the fridge or in a paper bag in the dark – warm temperatures and light lead to sprouting. In the fridge, store them in a plastic bag or container, as this helps to retain moisture and keeps them fresher for longer. When it comes to potatoes store them in a paper bag in a dark, dry, cool place, where no light can get to it. An important tip is to keep potatoes separate from onions as these can cause them to sprout.
Onions, shallots, garlic – These bulbs should feel firm and dry when you buy them. If they feel soft when you touch them it means they are possibly rotting inside. Do not buy allium vegetables with shoots coming out of their tops, as this means they aren’t as fresh and may be more bitter. Store these in a cool dry place, such as a vegetable cupboard, or on the countertop in the shade, as moisture causes them to sprout.
Broccoli and cauliflower – Should have dense, tightly packed heads, with no signs of yellowing. The florets should be closed. If the florets are open and bolting out it will have more of a bitter taste. When storing, separate the leaves from the head, as they will wilt quicker. Often the leaves have a higher amount of folate in them and can be used in a stir-fry or salad. Store in a paper or plastic bag to provide some moisture, however too much moisture will decrease shelf-life.
Leafy greens – When buying salad greens try ensuring that none of the leaves are wilting or starting to brown as these won’t last and will also decrease the freshness of the leaves around them. If buying leafy greens in a bag, try ensure that there is little water in the bag when storing them or remove them from the original packaging, place them with a paper towel in a sealed container, or new plastic bag, to reduce the moisture and increase storage time in the fridge. When buying kale, chard or lettuce, avoid yellow or brown bruised leaves, as this suggests age and poor storage. These leaves can get droopy as they lose moisture, so a good tip is to soak them in cold water before usage.
Squash, pumpkin, butternut – These should feel heavy for their size and have limited soft spots or bruises. Do not store these vegetables in the fridge, but rather at room temperature until ready to use. Squash can keep for months, if they are not resting heavily on anything. They are best stored in a hanging net- like a hammock hanging in your cupboard. Pumpkin, however, should first be left to ‘cure’ in the sun on the windowsill as this helps them toughen their skin, keeping them fresh. They should then be stored in a dark, dry, well ventilated area no cooler than 10oC, where they can last up to six months. Do not store them in the fridge.
Avocados – We all poke and prod avos before we buy them to check how ripe they are. Another great tip is to try pick off the stem tip left at the top; if it comes away easily and you find green or yellow underneath, you have found a ripe and ready-to-eat avo, if its brown underneath its over-ripe. If the stem doesn’t come off easily, then its not ripe yet. Don’t store avocados in the fridge before they are ripe. Once sliced open, the avocado is exposed to oxygen and will thus need a touch of acid, such as lemon juice, to stop it from browning too quickly. Another tip is to slice the avocado, place it on parchment paper and store it in the freezer – after all, fats store well in the freezer and it can also be used to give smoothies that creamy edge.
Peppers and chilis – When buying peppers look for ones that are bright in color and have limited wrinkles. Peppers should not be stored in the fridge but rather at room temperature in a dark place, as the moisture in the fridge causes them to rot quicker.
Fruit – The important things when buying fruits, including tomatoes, is to look for bright colors and strong fresh smells. If there are any blemished or bruises on the fruit it means they will go off sooner or may be over-ripe. Once fruits are ripe, the smell will be brighter, and they should then be stored in the fridge. Fruits that should not be stored in the fridge are bananas and melons. Bananas also give off a gas called ethylene. If the bananas are stored with other fruit in a fruit bowl, the ethylene will cause them to ripen quicker, decreasing their shelf-life.
Fruit should never be wasted as there are so many ways to preserve and utilize them. You can make a granita, a fruit puree (which can be stored in ice-cube trays in the freezer) or compote. They can be used to make jams (add some chia seeds for extra fiber), fruit sorbets or ice-creams, mocktails and cocktails or sliced and frozen ready to be added to a smoothie. You can even roast or grill fruit for a dessert or addition to a savory dish; or dehydrate them into fruit chips. Fruit is a great sugar alternative to use in dishes… think stews.
So, don’t just pop any fruit or vegetable in your trolley. When all is said and done, and you see you haven’t made the food you intended to in time, that’s ok, there are so many ways to utilize your produce if stored correctly.
Reference: I am doing an amazing course with Amanda Archibald and Kate Water http://www.katewatersfinefoodandnutrition.co.uk/ ; https://www.genomickitchen.com/
Nourish yourself to the sunrise.
Written with love,
Sunrise by HM
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