Go Green: Prolonging shelf life of produce
In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: I know that wasted food is an issue and I've tried to cut down, but I feel like produce spoils too fast. Do you have any hints to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for a longer period of time?
A: Sure! Wasted food is, indeed, a big problem in America — as much as 40 percent of our yearly food production goes to waste. You can cut down on this problem, and the amount of money you spend on food that you don't eat, by storing food properly, controlling conditions, like excess moisture, temperature and oxygen exposure. Check out some of our favorite tips from Red Fire Farm in Granby, Mass., to help you save food and money.
Fruits: Many fruits give off ethylene gas, which causes them (and other fruits and vegetables around them) to ripen. This is a partial list of fruits and veggies you should store separately to prevent early ripening: apples, bananas, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, grapes, mangos, nectarines, pears, peppers, pineapple and tomato.
Cucumbers and tomatoes: Store these at room temperature. Refrigerated tomatoes will become mushy and less flavorful. Cucumbers are sensitive to ethylene, so keep them away from the items on the list in the previous entry.
Onions, garlic and potatoes: Some items can (and should) be stored at room temperature, including potatoes and onions. Potatoes should be stored in the dark. Store potatoes and onions separately, because they also release gases that cause each other to go bad quickly. Sweet potatoes, melons and winter squash can also be stored at room temperature.
Leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.): Store in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. Place dry paper towels at the bottom of the drawer to absorb moisture. Try not to wash too far in advance of use (or if you do, make sure they're very dry before storing them) because the extra moisture can make them slimy.
Beets, radishes and carrots: Removing the greens from the carrots will help them retain moisture. The part of these plants that you eat is technically the root, from which the greens absorb moisture. They're edible though, so make sure to use them.
Use these tips to keep your produce in your home and out of a landfill. For more tips on storing produce, visit redfirefarm.com/newspages!
Look out for this column every two weeks. Send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.