By Larraine Roulston:
It is often a challenge to use up all your fresh vegetables and fruits before they start to look less desirable. When you discover you have more produce than you can eat in the immediate future, freeze some while it is still fresh. Alternatively, make preservatives or give food away to someone who will enjoy your excess bounty.
Knowing how different food types are stored will help extend their life. Potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, turnip, cucumbers and squash are kept in a cool area. Cucumbers, if stored in the fridge, should be wrapped in a moist towel.
To delay decaying, place a paper towel or clean tea towel in your crisper and storage containers to help soak up any excess moisture. If you need to revive pre-rinsed beets, celery, carrots, herbs or greens, soak them for 15-30 minutes in cold water. You can also stand kale, chard, herbs and beet tops in a jar of cold water – just as you would for cut flowers.
Deborah Madison, who authored ‘Vegetable Literacy’, cautions that when you wash or revive leafy greens, you need to dry them thoroughly if you are not going to use them immediately. Water remaining on the outside invites bacteria. Madison breaks apart her lettuce and other leafy greens, rinses, dries and then stores them in a bag with a clean dry towel.
To use up excess or wilting produce, make a soup. First, sauté chopped onion and stir in spices. Add water or vegetable stock and start to chop your chosen veggies. You can include a handful of rice, barley, pre-soaked dry beans, or even oatmeal. Enhance the flavour by adding tomato juice, spaghetti sauce or perhaps leftover meat sauce or wine. After a couple of days, for variety, simply dump the remaining soup in a blender. Any unused sour cream can provide a fancy topping. Soup also freezes well.
Bananas will keep longer if you separate them and wrap each stem with a plastic wrap. Overripe bananas make delicious smoothies as well as muffins and loaves.
There are over 60 ‘how to store’ tips listed alphabetically on Washington’s Green Grocer. Here are but a few:
Avocados – place in a paper bag at room temperature. An apple inside the bag will speed up their ripening.
Basil – does not like to be cold or wet. Best stored in an airtight jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside and just left to sit on a cool counter.
Broccoli – place in an open container in the refrigerator or wrap in a damp towel.
Celery – place in a bowl of shallow water on the counter.
Eggplant – does fine left in a cool room. Do not wash, as it does not like any extra moisture around its leaves. For longer storage place loose in the crisper.
Radishes – remove greens so they do not draw out excess moisture from the roots and refrigerate in an open container with a damp cloth on top.
Rhubarb – wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
Snap peas – Refrigerate in an open container.
Strawberries – Best kept in a paper bag in the refrigerator.
Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy
Freezing and preserving food
Larraine Roulston authors the Pee Wee Castle Compost series at www.castlecompost.com