Do you ever buy a lot of produce and have it go bad before you can eat it? This used to happen all the time to me! Through research, trial and error, I found some tips to keep produce fresh longer!
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We’ve adopted a new habit of washing our produce as soon as we get home from the store. It’s a little bit of work upfront but I save that time later when I’m cooking and every time my kids want an apple.
We used to be a little more lax about washing produce. I would usually do it but the rest of our family wasn’t as consistent. Then our son was diagnosed with cancer and it became a real concern. It should have been already.
Every year we hear about produce that is contaminated with e.coli, listeria, and other nasty things. It’s important to wash your produce every time!
Interesting fact, people with compromised immune systems (pregnant women, people with cancer, etc.) are discouraged from eating processed fruits, veggies, salads, etc. because there is such a high risk of contamination in those products.
There are other things on produce we want to clean off as well like pesticides and waxes.
Now, we wash all our produce before use, most of it is washed as soon as we get in the door.
Washing Fresh Produce
For most of our produce like apples, peaches, plums, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus, melons, etc. I give them a sink bath.
I thoroughly clean my sink, fill one side with cold water and sprinkle baking soda in the water and mix it with my hand. I don’t measure but I probably use 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda. When I use more water, I use more baking soda, less water…less baking soda.
Then I add my produce, all mixed together, into the sink bath. I set a timer, because I always forget, and let them soak for 15 minutes. Then I rinse them off with cold water and stick them in my dish drainer.
If something is especially dirty, I use my veggie brush to give them a good scrub.
Berries require a different method of cleaning. My son could eat his weight in berries! When we have them, he will easily eat pounds of them every day! When possible we buy in bulk. If you buy in bulk, or even just small amounts that may sit in the fridge for a few days, I recommend you inspect them closely. One moldy berry will ruin the whole bunch quickly.
Washing berries is one way to inspect all our berries. The moisture can make them spoil faster so if you will not be eating them quickly, you may want to wait until just before eating to wash.
Rinsing berries under cold water will clean them. My friend Sarah at Never Free Farm gave me a great tip for berries. She fills a small basin with cold and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Then soaks up to two pounds of berries for 5 to 10 minutes. If you don’t know Sarah, follow her, you’ll be impressed!
There are different schools of thought on washing mushrooms. Some people just wipe them with a damp cloth. Others use a special mushroom brush. I usually rinse them just before using and carefully dry them off.
Produce Storage Containers
While foods that are stored whole like melons and apples don’t need special containers. I’ve found a few inexpensive containers that have done wonders for keeping cut food fresh longer.
Containers like these Rubbermaid Freshworks keep produce from spoiling for much longer. I have the older model but the old ones don’t have as many size options. Read the reviews and you’ll see why I love them! Containers like this make it easier to keep cut veggies ready for quick meals like this Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl.
I use these for cut cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and sometimes fruit, like freshly cut pineapple. Many of the reviews mention people putting whole fruits in them, including berries. Berries never last long enough at my house. Most get eaten while they are drying on the counter.
I don’t have a special container that is big enough for my lettuce. When washing my romaine, I give them a sink bath, pull all the leaves off and dry them individually. Then I store the whole leaves in a large container with paper towels on the bottom, a few layers of romaine leaves, another layer of paper towels, and so on. I’ve had romaine last for 2 weeks this way! 2 WEEKS!
A salad spinner works well too. If you want to avoid the waste of paper towels, you can store your washed lettuce in a salad spinner.
Where you live plays a big part in how you store produce too. Since I live in Arizona, it is hot most of the year. Some foods that are typically stored on the counter top have to be stored in the fridge when the temperatures get high. If you live somewhere colder, you may be able to keep most of your whole produce on your counters for a long time. Check out this seasonal produce chart specifically for Arizona!
What are your tips to keeping produce fresh? Do you have a special tool that you love?