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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prolonging The Magic

I came across the picture above and this link, which give good descriptions of proper storage for various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The Periodic Table of Produce above is a real gem. It tells where, how, and for how long to store numerous items. For instance, a quick glance reveals that Broccoli should go in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days. Onions, cool dry place, unwrapped, for up to 2 months with a few exceptions. Winter squash is good for a month in a cool dry place. Strawberries go in the fridge in a vented container for 3 days. As the table says in the upper left corner, this would be a great item to print out and hang on the front of the refrigerator for a quick reference guide. I can attest that putting my fresh basil (see Herbs, leafy in the lower right corner) in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag allowed me to use it for a good 6 days instead of the usual 3 days max before it dried out.

One of the things that can make a high-quality nutrition plan even more prodigiously expensive is waste. Throwing away fruits and vegetables, especially if they're organic, can add quite a bit to your food bill. Now that I have this list, that will help me reduce my waste some, but I also have another method of saving produce before it turns into mush: the freezer! When I get down to the last ribs of celery or have a few leaves of basil left or a couple carrots that are going to go bad, I throw them into a Ziploc bag and freeze them and when the bag gets full, I make vegetable soup with whatever else is in the fridge working through its useful life.

And here's a chance for me to talk about farmer's markets again. One of the really beautiful things about reputable farmer's markets (the ones where the farmers actually grow the produce locally) is that the food is much fresher than that at your local grocer. The produce that I get from my local growers was all picked within the last few days and was picked when it was ripe. In The End of Food, Thomas Pawlick talked about the method of picking conventional produce before its ripe so that it doesn't go bad during shipping, then artificially ripening it with acetylene gas to make it look like an apple or a peach is supposed to look, although this method doesn't make them taste like a truly ripe apple or peach.

So there you go. Now you can store your produce with impunity.