STORING FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
The produce from my allotment is starting to reach our kitchen, with courgettes, beans, strawberries, raspberries and lettuce now ready for picking. But for many people, there is a total reliance on getting their fresh fruit and vegetables from the local supermarket, Unfortunately, you don't know how long they have been in storage, after having been shipped halfway around the world to get to the distributor. The alternative, of course, is to shop at your local market. Provided it is genuinely 'local' you know that the produce has been grown and picked in the area and has arrived fresh that day (you hope!). But how long can you keep fresh fruit and veg? Sue Quinn, a food expert, recently explained when to eat fruit and vegetables and how to store them to keep them fresh for longer
We’ve all done it. You buy truckloads of fruit and vegetables on a Saturday morning, full of good intentions and noble plans to eat healthily all week, only to toss out half if it – wilted, slimy and untouched – days or even weeks later. It’s a waste of time, money and precious produce. It isn’t always practical to plan your meals ahead – an obvious way to reduce waste – but there other strategies to ensure your fruit and vegetables stay their best for longer. Follow Sue Qunn's tips and the guide below and you might be surprised at how long it actually lasts.
First, make sure your fridge is at the correct temperature (0–5°C) – then prepare your produce for storage. Keep fruit and vegetables in their original packaging, as it has been designed to keep them fresher for longer. And don’t wash loose fruit and vegetables before you put them away – they carry a natural protective coating – so do this just before you cook or eat them.
If you want to prevent your fruit from spoiling quickly, pack away the fruit bowl. Almost all fruit and vegetables should be kept in the salad drawers of the fridge, except potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash and onions – these need to be stored in a cool, dark place. Pop loose fruit and vegetables into loosely sealed, perforated plastic bags before they go into the fridge and try to keep the fruit and vegetables separate; some fruit releases ethylene, which speeds up the ripening process. For loose lettuce, salad greens or baby spinach, wash the leaves in cool running water and discard discoloured or blemished leaves. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner or clean tea towel, wrap loosely in kitchen paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Herbs can be tricky. Some experts suggest placing the stems in water in a jar and covering the leaves with a plastic bag before storing them in the fridge – but don’t chill basil, as it doesn’t like the cold.
Sue's when-to-eat guide below is just a guide, as the shelf life of produce obviously varies according to its ripeness and quality, but is based on ripe fruit and vegetables kept in a fridge at the correct temperature. In perfect conditions, most of them could last much longer.
If you shop on Saturday …
Eat Saturday through to Monday
· Ripe bananas
· Ripe tomatoes (only refrigerate when ripe)
· Edible flowers
· Corn on the cob
Eat Monday through to Thursday
· Ripe mangos
· Greens including kale and spring greens
· Mushrooms (refrigerate in a paper bag)
· Green beans
· Loose lettuce (wash and store as described above)
· Green grapes
Eat Thursday through to Saturday
· Stone fruit like peaches, apricots
· New potatoes (store in the fridge)
Eat from Saturday and beyond
· Brussels Sprouts
· Onions and shallots (store in a cool dark place)
· Citrus fruits
· Winter squash (store in a cool dark place)
· Red and green cabbage
· Potatoes (store in a cool dark place)
· Pumpkin and winter squash (store in a cool dark place)
· Sweet potato (store in a cool dark place)