Have been looking ways to store your fresh produce for long? here is how. As soon as the produce leaves the plant, it is on it own and therefore cannot replenish any stores of energy or nutrients from the parent plant. It still respires, transpires, and even dies, just like humans. Water, temperature, ethylene and handling conditions greatly affect produce right from harvest until they are consumed.
There are some produce that continue to ripe even after harvesting. Can you think of an example? For others, once they are harvested, that’s it. If it was sour before harvesting, good luck with eating it! Watermelon is an example. So how can you handle these produce? Here are 7 simple ways you can start implementing from today.
1. IMMEDIATELY UNPACK GROCERY BAG WHEN YOU GET HOME
The golden step to store your fresh produce for long is, unpacking them immediately when you get home. Most people, right when they return from grocery shopping, just leave everything on the kitchen table to be unpacked later. When is later? No body knows. As mentioned, the produce still respire, transpire and undertake a number of life processes. So holding them in plastic bags or packed up, won’t help them to live longer. Unpack that grocery bag. At least, just open everything up onto the kitchen table for an hour or two before going about other things.
2. SEPARATE BRUISED PRODUCE FROM FIRM AND UNBRUISED ONES
Bruised produce are prone to microbial infection. Try leaving bruised and unbruised tomatoes in the same container or pack overnight. The result is not something you would like. Once the bruised produce are attacked by microbes at the bruised ends, it spreads to healthy produce as well. So separating the unbruised would keep them longer. It is advisable to use bruised produce as soon as you can to prevent complete spoilage. Bruised tomatoes can be washed, steamed and frozen or even blended before frozen.
3. DON’T LEAVE PRODUCE IN HOT HUMID AREAS
Hot humid areas do not favor fresh produce, especially those which generate more ethylene. Ethylene is a compound produce during several biochemical processes occurring in the produce, and this compound helps the produce to ripen. Once ripping begins, it cannot be reverted. It can only be slowed but it essentially leads to senescence or death of the produce. And this is also spoilage, when the produce is not eaten. So keeping fresh produce out of hot humid areas reduces ethylene production. Have a cool, slightly humid area where you can put oranges, bananas, etc.
4. SEPARATE RIPE PRODUCE FROM UNRIPE ONES
Put ripe and unripe bananas at one place and observe what happens as compared to leaving only unripe bananas at a place. Ripe products have more ethylene generated. This compound is a gas and therefore when unripe produce are stored together with ripe ones, the ethylene produced by the ripe ones affect the unripe produce, causing them to ripe faster. So keep the ripe produce separate from the unripe.
5. BLANCH LEAFY VEGETABLES WHICH WOULD NOT BE USED WITHIN A WEEK
Blanching is one of the ways to store fresh produce for long. Leafy vegetables are among produce that have very high moisture within them. They need high relative humidity and low temperatures to live long. However, in our homes, most of us do not have that condition. Even if there is, how do we identify it? Not every refrigerator can provide conditions necessary for storing vegetables! And so a good way would be to blanch the vegetables and freeze them. Just leaving them in a refrigerator for long periods (5 days plus) would lead to chilling injury, loss of freshness and even browning overtime.
6. COOL AND DARK PLACES WORK WELL FOR SOME PRODUCE
Cool and dark places provide low or just-right temperatures and low levels of light. This is perfect for storing certain produce like yam and potatoes. In such condition, potatoes would not go green easily. Yam would also hold on its moisture content for quite a long time. This essentially enables you to store the produce for a relatively longer time.
7. HAVE A PLAN
Having a plan for purchasing fresh produce is a great way to start saving more and reducing your food waste as well. Most of us just jump straight to making a grocery list when we want to go shopping. After buying the things, we realize we wouldn’t be using them that week. That’s the beginning of their spoilage.
Instead try this, list the dishes you would likely want to eat in a particular week or month. Then based on that you can make a grocery list because you know the ingredients that go into making the dish. This is not a perfect meal plan, just something to guide you to buy the “needed” stuff.
“In this week, I would want to take fruit salad, chicken stew, vegetable soup, rice, bean sauce, vegetable stir fry, tofu.” Then make a grocery list based on these foods. This helps you to reduce food waste while saving money and energy. Sometimes it just “annoying” figuring out what to eat!
Storing fresh produce for slightly longer is easy to do, and very much dependent on our everyday activities related to food. Simple things like unpacking a grocery bag upon returning home from grocery shopping, would go a long way to help you to have fresh food most of the time.