Storage and maintenance of vegetables and fruits become crucial when we prioritise feeding fresh and nutritious food to our families. Veggies and fruits are best consumed on the day that they are bought; but with our busy lifestyles, we often find it convenient to shop over the weekend for the groceries that are to stay for the whole week ahead. Some hardy vegetables and fruits are bought even sparser to stay longer than that.
So, how do we utilise the expected shelf life for the groceries that we buy?
Are we storing the vegetables and fruits the right way to exploit their crisp nutrition?
How to store vegetables and fruits?
Does method of storage differ with various fruits and vegetables?
What are the pre-storage techniques to be used and care to be taken for weekly grocery maintenance?
For a consumer, the longevity of a farm produce begins at the selection. Select the freshest and firmer choice of vegetables and fruits that you can find in the market. Pick only the amount that can be utilised. Make a weekly meal plan mentally ahead of time, since it makes it easy while choosing veggies and fruits. It also ensures that the precious farm produce is not wasted in the kitchen.
When you bring the fresh groceries home, make sure you clean them off dirt without washing them. If you must wash a few supplies like root vegetables, make sure you dry them completely before storing away. Sort them. Also, if they have a plastic tray packaging, free them from it. If certain root veggies like beets or carrots come with their leafy stem, chop off leaving the bottom-most inch. You can use their greens for salad or discard if unusable.
Here are some of the techniques in storing fresh greens, vegetables and fruits that can be easily implemented by working-class households.
Green leafy vegetables
These are the most delicate greens of all. Most greens like basil, parsley, and cilantro can be protected best till 24 hours on countertop. The leaves are to be plucked, put in a glass tumbler and keep it warm with a plastic or paper bag over the greens. For cilantro, parsley and coriander put the tumbler into the fridge and it can stay fresh longer than 2-3 days. Celery, spinach and lettuce can also be stored in fridge containers.
Onions, garlic, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes are in their best shape when left on the countertop. Onions speed up the sprouting in potatoes; hence, store them separately. Tomatoes are best stored on the countertop when they are not stacked and sparsely arranged. Take care to not store European cucumbers, squash and beans in the refrigerator since they tend to develop brown spots in cold temperature. Tomatoes in fridge develop a mealy texture and differs in taste slightly. Vegetables that fit into fridge-like cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, capsicum, beans, and mushrooms are stored well in the humid setting of crisper/ vegetable compartment. Always remember to pack veggies loosely. If you buy any cut squashes or pumpkin, put them separately in a paper bag/ brown bag and refrigerate. Cob corns stay freshest for 2 days when kept in the fridge.
Store the fruits away from vegetables. Vegetables hasten the ripening of fruits. Most fruits stay longer when the storage basket in the fridge has the lowest humidity. Melons and cantaloupe stay fresh under refrigeration up to 10 days. Apples do well when left on the countertop, but if you want to store them in the fridge, place them open with a damp paper towel to avoid losing moisture. Bananas are best kept on countertop or fruit basket. But you can also store them in the fridge if you do not mind blackened peels. Unripe avocados, mangoes, bananas stop ripening in the fridge; hence are best stored in cool and dark place. Oranges, other melons are fine to be stored under refrigeration. If you need to store ripe cut avocado, sprinkle lemon or any citrus fruit juice and refrigerate.
7 Weekly Grocery Storage Hacks
- You can use desi maktas (earthenware) to keep these fruits and vegetables freshest for 2-3 days too. If using earthenware, moisten it from outside and store veggies and fruits separately.
- When you buy more tomatoes when they are available at a cheaper price, puree them and freeze for later use.
- Blanch capsicum, beans, broccoli and cabbage in hot water and then freeze them for their longest shelf life.
- Cut onions are best stored in the fridge since onions once cut, are the breeding ground for bacteria. Fridge can keep bacterial growth in check.
- Chop off the head of lettuce and store after cling-wrapping with aluminium foil.
- Grapes, berries and bananas are to be blanched in hot water before being stored in the freezer.
- Most vital of all hacks, “Buy only the variety and amount that you can utilise”. Store the greens rightly to feed your family with a farm-fresh produce every time!