Extend the life of fresh produce with moisture and temperature
By Lisa Crockett
It’s a great time of year to stock up on fruits and veggies at the farmers market, and if you’re a gardener, it’s likely that the first evidence of your hard labor is beginning to make an appearance at the dinner table. It’s a delicious time of year, and a healthful one, too. At times it can be tough to keep up with the pace of the harvest, so here are some ways to extend the life of summer’s bounty:
Lettuce and other greens like to stay dry, so when you bring them home, rinse them briefly in cool water and then store them in a container lined with a paper towel to extend their life.
Tomatoes, potatoes, onions and apples like cool, dry places, but the fridge is too cold. Give them plenty of room to breathe (an open container is perfect) and keep the onions and apples separate. (The onions will cause the apples to ripen faster.)
Mushrooms have to be kept dry and allowed to breathe; store them in a paper bag and keep them away from moisture.
Rinse fresh berries in a mixture of one part vinegar (apple cider vinegar works well) and 10 parts water. This slightly acid concoction will extend the life of your berries and clean them at the same time. Even using this trick, though, berries spoil quickly. If you can’t use them right away, throw them in the freezer for use in smoothies or try the mock sorbet recipe included on the previous page.
Bananas produce high amounts of ethylene gas, which ripens produce. Keep them away from anything you don’t want to ripen quickly.
If you have fresh herbs you can’t use in a timely fashion, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet until they are totally frozen, then store in zip-top bags or plastic containers in the freezer; frozen herbs will last for several months.
Pesto is a great way to preserve basil. Toss several cups of basil in a food processor, then add Parmesan and toasted pine nuts to taste. With the food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until a thick, firm paste forms. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Pesto can be used on pasta, chicken, fish and even pizza and will last two to three months in the refrigerator.
Zucchini, which tends to be abundant this time of year, will last a week or two in the fridge stored in a plastic bag so long as you don’t rinse it until immediately before you use it. If you have some that is threatening to spoil before you can eat it, shred it and freeze it. To use it, allow it to thaw and drain off the excess moisture, then use to make bread, soup or zucchini hash browns.
Peaches are a fragile treasure. If you’re lucky enough to get more than you can eat in a few days, dip the fruit in boiling water for about 30 seconds to loosen the skin. Then, make a cut in the base of the fruit with a sharp knife to “slip” the skins from the fruit. Cut the peaches into slices or chunks, place them in the freezer on a baking sheet until solid, then store in plastic bags for later use.