There are certain types of produce that I ALWAYS like to have on hand – ingredients that have become staples in just about everything I make. Those things are kale, bananas, berries (mostly strawberries and blueberries), apples, and avocados. The problem is keeping these things fresh long enough to use them all – there is nothing worse than throwing out fruits and veggies that went bad before you had a chance to eat them. Below are some ways I’m maximizing the life of my produce – if you have any suggestions please let me know!
I use kale in everything: salads, smoothies, sautéed, baked into kale chips… I’m addicted to this leafy green. Unfortunately, when I buy a big bunch of it I always find that some of it wilts before I get around to using it. I’ve found the following method to be the most effective at keeping it crisp for about a week – the time it usually takes me to eat it all. When you get home, remove the kale from the store produce bag but do not wash it – retaining water will cause kale to wilt faster. Wrap the leaves in a dry towel to absorb any moisture that may already be on it, and store in a Ziploc bag in a drawer of the refrigerator.
It’s crazy how quickly bananas can go from green to brown. But, I’ve learned that you can prolong the lifespan of ripe bananas by storing them in the fridge. The peels will turn brown in the cold, but don’t let them fool you – what’s on the inside is still perfectly good! They also taste pretty delicious chilled. Lately I’ve been keeping my bananas on the counter until they ripen, and then I put some in the fridge, and slice up the rest and freeze them. I use the frozen ones for smoothies and the ones in the fridge for snacking.
The key to keeping berries fresh longer is to get rid of any harmful spores and bacteria with hot water or white vinegar. The pH of the white vinegar effectively kills them off – give the berries a bath in a container of vinegar, and then rinse them off with water. Line the container that they came in with paper towels to soak up excess water, and put them back in the container and store in the fridge. If you don’t like the idea of using vinegar, you can use hot water instead. Called blanching, this method has also been shown to kill off harmful bacteria. Give the berries a quick hot water bath (no longer than 30 seconds) and then store them the same way as described above. I typically store half of the berries in the fridge and the other half in the freezer for smoothies.
Avocados should be stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight – you can also slow down the ripening process by storing them in the fridge. My issue with avocados (and it’s a common one) is that I rarely eat a whole avocado in one sitting. The half that ends up in the fridge quickly turns brown, and even the old lemon juice trick doesn’t seem to stop it. After doing some research online I found another method that really works – onion. Place the uneaten half of the avocado in a sealed container with a chunk of onion, and it will still be good (and green) a day later!
Apples can stay good for quite a while on your countertop, as long as it’s not too warm. But if you have a lot of them and want to ensure they stay fresh, they will last longer in the cooler temperature of the fridge. Keep any apples with spots or small damages on the counter and eat those first – there is truth to the saying that a bad apple can make the ones around it go bad quicker! This is because apples give off ethylene gas as they rot. Unlike some other produce, apples actually last longer with a little bit of moisture, so draping a damp towel over the apples will also help keep them fresh. They should last for a few weeks this way!
Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature on the countertop – despite what you may think, putting them in the fridge will not make them last longer, and will also ruin their flavor. The one “trick” I’ve found is to buy tomatoes on the vine – the vine is still feeding nutrients to the fruit, so it tends to stay fresh longer. In my research, I also read that storing the tomatoes stem-down (if they aren’t on a vine) will also keep them fresh longer, but I haven’t personally tried that method!
What are your tips for keeping fruits and veggies fresh? Do tell!