Friday, June 21, 2013

Making Fresh Produce Last Longer - 5 Simple Tips

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Whenever I go to our local farmer’s market, I end up buying a TON of fresh produce. I get inspired. I get excited. I dream of all the healthy dishes I will prepare for the week. I lug it home and reality sets in. This is a LOT of food and it is not going to last very long. We do eat loads and loads of fruits and vegetables around our household, since I am a huge smoothie advocate; we always have fresh greens and vegetables on hand. Even though we are consuming a lot, there is just no room to let things spoil. Because if it’s spoils, you are literally throwing your hard earned money in the garbage!

Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up that have helped our produce stick around longer to be enjoyed:

1)      Soak in water and vinegar

Yes, this works. Not only does it clean your produce, but kills off mold and other nasty stuff that may have decided to set up shop on your food. I usually do 2 cups water with 2 Tablespoons of vinegar and try to keep it around that ratio. My berries now typically last for a week or longer!

2)      Freeze

I know what you’re thinking…duh. Or not? Maybe it’s more of a hand smacking the forehead with a “why didn’t I think of that!?” It’s okay.  I can’t even imagine how many bananas I watched turn brown with the best intentions of banana bread, just to toss them in the trash. Freezing bananas while they start to ripen and turn even sweeter is the most delicious thing to introduce to your smoothie! If you’ve never done it, there are a few ways to freeze bananas. I google searched this and came up with so many ideas, but here’s how I do it and it works very well. I take my bananas and peel them. Chop them in chunks. Then place them in a freezer bag in the freezer with the date. Simple enough – no more wasted bananas!

3)      Buy selectively, ripe vs not-quite-ripe

If you can keep in mind WHEN you will be eating certain produce while you are buying it, this will certainly help make it last longer. I made this mistake with avocados. I LOVE avocados and if we end up without them in the house I will make a special trip to pick up more (and who REALLY has the time for that?). I used to purchase avocados that were just starting to mush to the touch and by the next day they were ready…ALL of them. So it didn’t take me long to figure out to buy some that were rock solid and some just starting to mush so I had my avocado stash to last most of the week. I found this out the hard way with peaches too. You live and you learn.

4)      Buy the plant

I realize this trick is a long shot, but I must say I have saved quite a bit of money by buying a few whole plants. I’m referring to fresh herb plants that I found I was constantly purchasing for my meals, like basil and cilantro for example. I would purchase these herbs for around $2-$3 dollars at my local grocery store or $.75 a bunch at my farmer’s market.  I spotted them one day in little potted plants and for 2 for $5 decided to give it a go. I have expanded my little herb collection beyond basil and cilantro to include thyme, rosemary, oregano, and mint (watch out! This plant grows like a weed!). I could go on and on about my love – hate relationship with having my own little sustainable herb plants growing, maybe I will save that for another post. I do know that for the price, you just can’t beat it.

5)      Do a little homework

I will leave you with this final trick. It is absolutely worth taking a few minutes to search for a few ways to make a particular produce you consistently buy last longer. For example, strawberries. I never realized they don’t like to sit in your refrigerator wet (who asked them?). So now after I soak and rinse them, I leave a paper towel on top to absorb excess water and then let air dry before I store them in the fridge. AMAZING what a difference that made. Between that trick and freezing them when they start looking scary, we have strawberries to enjoy all the time. If you find you’re tossing a particular fruit or vegetable, do a little research to see what you might be able to do to stretch its “shelf life.”  

I’d love to hear from you!

I’m figuring this out as I go and would love tried & true tips and tricks you regularly do to make produce last longer! If you have another trick that I didn’t mention (I’m SURE these aren’t the only things we can all do) please comment below and educate us all!
My Very Own Lemon Tree


  1. I learned this ( among many other things ) watching Alton Brown -

    Wash and soak the lettuce in cold water then dry with a salad spinner. Lay out paper towels on the counter and roll up the lettuce. Then place the whole package into a zip-top bag and refrigerate. Unroll and take what you need when needed... GREAT for sandwiches!!

    As Alton said "Water in the lettuce GOOD, water on the lettuce BAD". Soaking the lettuce re-invigorates it but you must dry it before wrapping. Any residual water on the lettuce will get soaked up by the paper towel and will actually be available for the lettuce as time goes by.

    Use this method for fresh herbs... They will keep for weeks.

  2. What a fantastic idea! Would you believe I don't have a salad spinner? I am putting one on my list and doing that from now on! Thank you for commenting and sharing!


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