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How to Store & Clean Organic Produce

Storage Tips

Placing your fruits and vegetables in proper storage is the primary key to keeping produce fresh.  Keeping produce fresh is more than a convenience for consumption, it is also an important money saver. It is estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture that an American family tosses out about 470 pounds (over 200kg) of food per year. That’s nearly 15 percent of all the food brought into the home, about $600 worth! That’s largely because so much food “goes bad” from neglect or improper storage. If you total it all up, Americans dump about $3 billion worth of food every year.

Preparation for Storage

Separate them!

Certain types of fruits and vegetables do not mix well in storage, as some emit ethylene, a gaseous hormone emitted by plants. Certain foods don’t do well with ethylene around and can spoil faster when stored near your ethylene-producing fruits and veggies inside the same compartment.  Your highest ethylene producers are apricots, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums.

Remove plastic, wire or rubber bands. This will allow the produce to breathe and prevent damage to the produce itself. Unwrap the wire or rubber band carefully so that you don’t bruise the produce.

Handle your organic produce as little as possible. The more you handle produce and pull it apart, the faster the cells start to break down, causing micro-organisms to flourish.

Pay attention to the temperature. Not all produce must be refrigerated, and much of it shouldn’t be refrigerated because the cold storage will affect flavor and moisture loss. If you must store organic produce in the refrigerator, be sure to let it warm to room temperature before eating it to get the best flavor.

Never store the following organic vegetables in the refrigerator:

  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Winter squash

Storing Fresh Produce

Fruits

You can safely store apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs and honeydew melon in the fruit compartment of your fridge.

You should spread your blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries out into single layers to keep them from rotting at contact points where moisture gathers. For the same reason, do not wash them until ready for consumption.

Fresh Herbs

Store fresh herbs in either an airtight glass container or a paper bag in the refrigerator. Most fresh herbs should be eaten with a week of purchase.

Basil (There are several ways to do this.)

  • Wrap fresh basil in a paper towel and place it in a sealable plastic bag before you refrigerate it.
  • Put fresh basil into an airtight glass jar along with a dampened paper towel and keep the jar on your counter top out of direct sunlight.

Celery

Keep celery refrigerated in a plastic bag. Celery is porous and especially vulnerable to absorbing odors from other produce.

Onions

Put onions in a paper bag and store them in a cool, dry place. Keep the onions away from the potatoes. They produce gases that make each other spoil.

Corn

Store corn in its husk in the refrigerator. Corn is best eaten as soon as possible after it is picked, so try to cook it immediately after you buy it.

Artichokes

Rinse artichokes and place them in an air-tight glass container before you put them in the refrigerator.

Broccoli

Wrap a damp (not soggy) paper towel around broccoli before putting it into the refrigerator.

Safely store asparagus at room temperature for up to 5 days. Make sure it is out of direct sunlight.

Green Beans

Keep green beans in a tightly closed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Like corn, green beans are best if they are cooked and eaten immediately after purchase.

Eggplant

Store eggplant on the counter or in the refrigerator, but don’t wash it until you are ready to prepare it; eggplant does not like moisture.

Zucchini

Place unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag or a vegetable crisper.

Arugula

Keep unwashed arugula in the refrigerator. Wash it and pat it dry just before you use it.

Lettuce and Other Greens

Wrap lettuce and other greens in a wet towel and refrigerate.

Carrots, Turnips and Beets

Remove the tops from carrots, turnips and beets because the tops will drain moisture from the roots. If you want to cook beet or turnip greens, simply store them separately from the roots. Wash carrots, turnips and beets just before you use them.

Cabbage, Radishes and Cauliflower

Store cabbages, radishes, and cauliflower in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Don’t remove the outer leaves or stems until you are ready to eat them raw or prepare them for cooking.

Spinach

Always store spinach in a cold crisper; spinach will wilt fast at room temperature.

Sweet Potatoes and Winter Squash

Keep sweet potatoes and winter squash in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. They do not store well in the refrigerator. Keep potatoes away from the onions.  They produce gases that make each other spoil.

Remember to wash produce well

It’s always a good idea to thoroughly wash your produce, though the incidence of food-related illness is relatively low considering that everyone eats multiple times a day and people rarely get sick. Farm2Mountain’s produce has been handled by a minimal number of people because it comes straight from farms, is sorted into our order, then arrives in Big Bear where individual items are boxed or bagged for delivery. It has never been sitting on a public shelf. Because it has been growing outdoors just a day or two before it arrives to you, there is probably still dust and farm-residue on it that should be always be cleaned off. Better Homes & Gardens and the FDA give guidelines, and you can prepare a simple wash solution with water and white vinegar (see graphic above). Some produce spoils faster after washing, so the general recommendation is that produce should not be washed until right before it is to be cut, peeled, cooked, or eaten. Soap and bleach are never recommended for cleaning produce and can even be harmful if used.

Source:  Chris Bekermeier/Organic Angels & WikiHow