HOW TO BEST STORE FRESH VEGETABLES FOR LONGER
We love our vegetables, don’t we? In fact, some of the best African and Caribbean meals have vegetables as the main recipe. But vegetables are notorious for spoiling quickly. This means you must find ways of storing your perishables (vegetables) to keep them fresh for a long period.
The Coronavirus and lockdown period have reconditioned the way people shop. Most now shop with a long term approach. They try to limit the frequency of grocery shopping and subsequently having to shop in bulk for your groceries at a time.
There’s no single way to store all vegetables as they have different lifespans. Lettuce cannot be handled the same way as potatoes. Some vegetables even have to be stored separately from others so it doesn’t affect their lifespan.
Here are some strategies that can be used to store your vegetables to keep them fresh for as long as possible. These tips will ensure you can eat your best vegetable accompanied mainstay African and Caribbean meals whenever you want.
Store Vegetables and Fruits Separate
Here’s a food hack for you, fruits like apples and pears can ripen other fruits.
Some fruits produce ethylene gas e.g. apples and pears. This gas can fasten the rate at which nearby vegetables and fruits get ripe.
This is why keeping such fruits in the same space as vegetables mean spoilage for the veggies.
Other items like onions and bananas should be kept separate as well. Onions emit excess moisture which can affect other vegetables or fruits if they are stored together. The excess moisture from onions can make potatoes sprout.
The following are examples of ethylene sensitive fruits and vegetables
- Chilli peppers
- Sweet peas
Store in a Cool, Dark and Dry Place (Room Temperature)
Moisture, heat and light are bad for your vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables like puna yam store better in a cool, dark and dry environment.
This is why it is advisable to also keep your vegetables away from fruits and vegetables away from heat-producing appliances.
This can be a pantry or kitchen cabinet. The room temperature helps keep the veggies fresh for a longer period. These food items also tend to last longer in the winter when it’s cooler than in summer when it's hot.
Also, vegetables like potatoes will sprout and decay when stored at room temperature.
Examples of vegetables and fruits to store at room temperature;
- Potatoes and Yam
- Limes and Lemons
- Oranges etc.
Store in the fridge
Refrigeration reduces the rate at which bacteria grow inside fruits and keeps them fresh for a longer time.
Ziplock plastic bags, airtight containers or silicone pouches help preserve refrigerated produce for longer periods. This is because the containers prevent dehydration by helping to hold in moisture. They also help protect ethylene-sensitive produce.
Below are some examples of fruits and vegetables to store in the refrigerator.
- Pomegranate etc.
Store On the Counter
Not all uncut or raw fruits and vegetables can be refrigerated. Some are best stored on the counter instead of in a fridge.
Fruits like citrus, tomatoes and bananas are best stored on the countertop.
For vegetables, you can keep onions, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, corn and ginger there. Yes, tomato is a vegetable.
It is best to store these food items on the countertop, away from direct sunlight. Do not store them in a fridge as their texture will turn grainy.
Here’s a rule of thumb you should keep. Whole fruits and vegetables last longer than the cut ones. It is best to store cut or peeled vegetables and fruits in the fridge for preservation.
With this technique, you can always prepare your salad or coleslaw at any time.
Store Asparagus and Cousins In Glass Jar
Tall stalk vegetables like asparagus and green onions are best stored in a glass jar to keep them fresh.
To store asparagus, cut off about an inch off the bottom. cover stalks with a plastic produce bag, tighten with a rubber band and place in a jar. Remember not to overcrowd them, so it might be best to use multiple jars depending on the vegetable quantity you have. Once this is done, you can then fill the jar halfway with water.
This method can keep your asparagus fresh for like a week.
You can use the same technique to store your green onions. The only difference is that you do not need to trim off the bottom.
Asparagus and green onions can also be refrigerated. To do this, wrap the stalks with a damp paper towel to keep them moist.
Refrigerate leafy greens to keep them fresh
Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, kale and broccoli can be refrigerated to stay fresh for longer.
For the cut heads, rinse them and wrap them in a paper towel before sealing them in an airtight container. Uncut heads can be refrigerated directly without placing in a container.
The best way to store leafy greens requires some experiments on your part.
Some experts believe you should not wash your vegetables until you need them. This is because excess moisture hastens the decay of leafy greens in the fridge.
Others believe prewashing and wrapping with a paper towel will help absorb this excess moisture. Although, some people have complained that this causes the vegetable to overdry and wilt.
The best way is still to remove the bad or brown leaves from your vegetable and then seal them in an airtight container.
If you will wash them, you have to rinse them and store them as soon as you get home.
Other roots and tubers
Root vegetables like beets, ginger, carrots and turnips can also be stored to stay fresh.
To store for a long time, seal in a plastic bag and refrigerate. For a short period like a couple of weeks, you can store them in a drawer. It’s perfectly fine.
Something else to know about preserving root vegetables is that they are hardy and tough. They can withstand a high amount of abuse that you dare not try with other vegetables. So yes, you can store root vegetables and tubers with ethylene producing vegetables.
It is also important that you remove greens still attached to your carrots or beets before storing them. Do not waste the leafy greens especially those of beet and turnips. You can still use them to make soups or stir-fries.
Mushrooms can be classified as vegetables although they belong to the fungi family.
Storing mushrooms is easy. You simply seal it in a paper bag and then refrigerate it. You don’t use plastic bags for mushrooms because of their high water content. This water can become trapped in a plastic bag when it evaporates. This turns the mushrooms slimy.
Lettuce requires air circulation and moisture to last longer. To store and preserve your lettuce, wash, spin dry and keep in a perforated container before refrigerating.
You can still store your lettuce in plastic bags or drawers but the shelf life is relatively lower using those techniques.
Storing vegetables is easy if you know the dos and don’ts. We have explained those perfectly.
But not everyone will be willing to go through the stress of storing vegetables. Such people can buy pre-frozen vegetables from their favourite online store or offline shop.