How to Keep Your Farmers Market Produce Fresh

Source: Holly Ebel- Agri News

One of the hazards of having great farmers markets is that we tend to buy too much. At least I do. Walking around and seeing the varieties of vegetables and greens, it’s hard to pass things up.

Here’s how it goes: Look at that spinach — get two bags. And there are beautiful beets, leeks and carrots. Get some of those. This cauliflower is amazing, and look at that cabbage. Asparagus? Picked last night — two bunches, a bargain at $3 each.

Never once do we doubt that we won’t eat every bit of it. The sad truth is that, on average, we throw out about one-quarter of all the produce we buy from both the market and the grocery store.

Mostly that’s our fault, and not just because we over-bought, but also because we are careless in how we store it. With just a little effort and information, though, we can keep what we bring home fresh and make it last longer — maybe even until the next time we get to the market.

One of the heroes in this effort is the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. The humidity there gives a boost to most vegetables and produce — asparagus, broccoli, beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, beans and cucumbers are pretty happy in there.

However, even if you are a germ freak, it’s not a good idea to wash any of them first. Do that just before using. Water sitting on them can encourage mold.

I was also told by most of the vendors at the Rochester Farmers Market to keep fresh vegetables in the plastic bags you bring them home in. I can vouch for that. Asparagus and watercress I bought from Many Hands Organic Growers and kept in the bags lasted almost two weeks before I finished eating them.

As for keeping lettuces and leafy greens, I was given several options. First, wash them, dry them well, and wrap loosely in paper towels, then store in a plastic bag on a refrigerator shelf.

Another way was just as simple: Using a salad spinner, wash the greens as long as it takes to get clear water. Then add just enough water to the bottom bowl to hydrate the leaves, but not so that they’re sitting in it. This can keep things fresh for almost a week.

The one caveat — the spinner takes up room on a shelf.

Store fresh herbs with the stems in a glass of water loosely covered with plastic wrap over the top.

Another tip: Cut off the greens of any root crop with edible tops like carrots and beets. These can rob the vegetables of needed moisture.

Garlic, onions and potatoes are easier. They should be stored in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or garage. I just learned first-hand that while onions and potatoes are wonderful in a dish together, they are not on friendly terms when stored side by side or together. The spoilage factor goes up. A lesson learned too late.

If what you have is not doing so well after just a few days, it could be you are storing incompatible items together. Some fruits and vegetables have high ethylene levels, a ripening agent, that can have a negative effect. These include bananas, stone fruits, avocados and tomatoes. Leave them on the counter.

Keep apples, melons and tomatoes away from ethylene sensitive items like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens and lettuce. It’s also true that one rotten apple can spoil the bushel. So if something — a vegetable, a fruit or a berry — starts to look suspicious, get rid of it.

The wonderful season of farmers markets is just beginning. With a little extra effort, you can get the most out of it.


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