How to Make your Fruits and Vegetables Last Longer
So you’ve done your weekly grocery shopping, stacked your cart with rainbow-coloured veggies, and stocked up your refrigerator for the week ahead. There’s one little niggling worry though, how do you make sure they remain fresh until Friday? Here are some expert-backed tips.
After all the hard work to pick fresh produce for your family, watching the veggies wilt while they await their turn to be on the menu is heartbreaking. Not only do root vegetables begin to wilt, or leafy greens shrivel and your fruits begin to leak their juice, storing for a long time also cuts down the nutrients packed in them. However, the trick lies in storing them well to prolong their shelf life by at least a week and making the most of the inventory and produce.
Herbs and leafy vegetables
1. Herbs and leafy vegetables: Have you noticed that when you buy greens like lettuce or coriander or spinach, your local vegetable vendor wraps them in paper first and then in a plastic before handing it over to you? There’s a science behind it, obvs. “Most vegetables spoil because of excess moisture, turning them soggy and brown. Wrapping them with paper towels or lint-free kitchen towels absorbs the moisture. Then store these herbs and leafy veggies in an airtight container in the refrigerator,” says Mumbai-based nutritionist Dr Riddhesh Jani of Sketch Clinic. Remember to replace the towel when it becomes damp. Even lemons and limes can be wrapped in paper towels and then stored in the fridge to increase their shelf life.
Bonus trick: Sprinkle leafy vegetables with a dash of salt, which also helps draw out extra wetness.
Double bonus trick: If you need just a squeeze of lemon, cutting it in half and putting it back in the fridge only dries out the citrus fruit. Instead, puncture the whole lemon with a fork. This way, you can squeeze out what you need without drying out the entire lemon.
2. Root vegetables: Vegetables like radishes, beets, carrots, and turnips are a win-win—you can eat the roots as well as the leafy stems and both are delicious and have nutritional value. To help these veggies last longer, “remove the greens from the root and store each separately. This is because, when attached, the green stems draw moisture out of the root, rendering the roots dry over time,” explains Dr Jani. Detach them and store them separately to make the root vegetables last even longer.
3. Onions: Onions should be stored in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight for them to last longer. So definitely don’t place them next to the oven, the stove, on top of the refrigerator, or by a window sill. But they also need enough air to stay fresh. “Wrapping them in a mesh-like material like a nylon bag works very well,” advises Dr Jani. Or an old pair of pantyhose will do the trick too!
4. Potatoes and apples: “This may sound strange but certain fruits and vegetables work in synergy. And potatoes and apples are one such that share this dynamic. The ethylene gas produced by apples keeps the potato tubers fresh longer,” explains Dr Jani. Store them in a dry and cool place, again away from sunlight. Pears, passion fruits and avocados can also be used in place of apples as these fruits, too, emit a high concentration of ethylene gas.
5. Tomatoes: A common mistake that many people make is immediately refrigerating tomatoes. It’s important to note that that once refrigerated, the cold disables any further ripening, hence you stop the development of the tomatoes yummy flavours, making them less juicy. Whole, uncooked tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter—a dry and cool (not cold) place. To hasten ripeness, place them in a paper bag with an apple.
6. Mangoes: Mangoes when not ripe can be put in a ventilated wooden or cardboard box with lots of hay, or in a bin of rice grains. This will fasten the ripening process. Once ripe, the mangoes can be put in the refrigerator, but should be consumed within 4 to 5 days from this time. Never refrigerate unripe mangoes because that stops the ripening process.
7. Fruits like berries: There are two ways to store berries, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and other berries to make them last longer. “First, carefully wash them with clean water a couple of times at least and then freeze them till it is time for consumption. When frozen, the vitamin C, flavonoids and antioxidant content of berries increases, making them more nutritional,” says Dr Jani. The second way is to wash the berries with a mix of vinegar and water (1:3 ratio—nothing too strong). This way, all fungus is disinfected thereby lengthening the shelf life of the berries. Be cautious to rinse them again with water and dry thoroughly before stashing them in the refrigerator.
8. Apples and avocados: Both fruits contain enzymes that make these fruits, once cut, brown upon oxidisation. Hence, sliced apples and avocadoes when left out for two long or halved ones kept in the fridge don’t look as appealing. “Squirt some lime or sprinkle some salt on these and they should stay fine because lime and salt are natural preservatives (hence commonly used in pickles) which will prevent the browning by at least a day.” Remove rotten apples immediately, because one rotten apple WILL spoil the entire bunch.
9. Bananas: Bananas should ideally be consumed within 2 to 3 days of purchase because they contain some of the highest amounts of ethylene gas. Therefore, they ripen (and spoil) very fast. But, you could place a plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer, by a couple of days at the most. Be careful to not store any other fruit with bananas as it will ripen and, maybe, spoil all its neighbours.
10. Roots like ginger and turmeric: Ginger and turmeric can be stored in the freezer. They will still grate quite easily. Be cautious to not keep meat and produce in the same area in the freezer. This makes cross-contamination easy.
11. All other vegetables: Wash all vegetables well before storing them. This way any mold will be removed. Make sure to dry the produce before storing them. Though it’s a common practice to directly place the vegetables in the fridge drawer, it’s always advisable to wrap the inventory in a lint-free kitchen towel or line the storage bags (plastic produce bags or zip-top bags) with a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture and to ensure a vacuum. And if you’re going plastic-free, then, hey! This is when those fancy mason jars come to the rescue!
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