Monday, January 25, 2010

Keeping Vegetables Fresh

A few weeks ago I bought some corn on the cob. Before I had a chance to prepare it, the corn was already spoiled. As someone who is very careful with her money (and an over eater as well), nothing (ok, maybe a few things) aggravates me more than food spoiling before it can be used.
Now that I am shopping once every 2 weeks for everything including produce, its important to keep a few rules in mind regarding food freshness and spoilage so that all the food can get eaten before the end of  its shelf life.

In my experience, the bigger and more solid a vegetable is, the longer it lasts. The higher the water content of the produce, the quicker it will spoil.
Greens spoil quickly. Lettuce and spinach and  other greens usually spoil quite quickly. When I go shopping, these are the items I try to use up first.

When a vegetable is cut, it doesn't last as long. When it is whole, it stays fresh for more time.
Gourds with a hard peel usually last a long time. Pumpkins and butternut squashes can last a long time without spoiling. However, my local store doesn't sell whole pumpkins. They chunks of pumpkin; these chunks spoil very quickly. Once you cut a vegetable, you shorten its shelf life dramatically. My father used to tell me that if you need to cut a vegetable, tear it rather than cut it with a knife. This way, it tears along its natural seams and lasts longer than if you cut it with a knife.

Certain foods are sold unripe or partially ripe. Our local store sells tomatoes that are orange and partially green. If you buy produce that is still unripe, usually it will take a decent amount of time to ripen and then only then does it start the countdown to spoilage. When buying tomatoes, get them green or orange and hard to ensure they last the longest. Avocados can also be bought unripe as well.

Root vegetables usually stay fresh longer than the fruit of a plant. Potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, turnip and parsnip will generally stay fresh longer than cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes (bought ripe), peppers, etc.

Kole crops, bought as a whole head and not in parts, last a while usually.  Kole crops include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

When I buy vegetables the order in which I try to use up the veggies is this:
First eat the green leafy veggies and pre-cut vegetables. Next eat the fruit of the plant- zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers. After this eat the kole crops. Next eat the gourds and the root vegetables. When planning your menu, keep these rules in mind and try to schedule your vegetables in recipes accordingly.

In the near future, I will be posting more posts in the "Keeping Food Fresh" series:
The rules of buying fruit and the order in which the should be finished.
How to extend the shelf life of produce.
Keeping dairy and meats fresh.

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