Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Pantry, Counter, Fridge - Where To Store Produce For Maximum Shelf Life

No matter how good a deal you got on those in-season blueberries, tomatoes or basil, it’s money wasted if some of that produce goes bad before it makes it to the table.

It is said that we throw out 14 percent of the food we buy -- and that's before factoring in the leftover food you scrape from your plate. 

Knowing how long fresh fruits and vegetables last and where to store them for maximum shelf life leads to better deals. You can make smarter decisions about how much to buy of a particular food, and use more (if not all) of it before it goes bad. (That’s not to say you can’t keep peppers on the counter or oranges in the fridge, of course – just that if you opt to keep something in less than ideal storage conditions, you might need to eat it a few days sooner.)

Read through the following tips for extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables:

Store on the counter. Move any uneaten apples to the refrigerator after seven days. In the fridge or out, don’t store near most other uncovered fruits or vegetables — the ethylene gases produced by apples can ruin them (making carrots bitter, for example). The exception: if you want to ripen plums, pears and other fruits quickly, put an apple nearby for a day or so
Refrigerate whole for up to two weeks.

Store upright in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with either an inch of water or with a damp towel wrapped around the base, just like you would have flowers in a vase. They’ll last three to four days that way.

Ripen on the counter. Can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days once ripe.

Store on the counter. Refrigerate only when ripe — they’ll last for another two days or so.

Remove green tops an inch or two above the crown. Refrigerate beets in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, which leads to wilting. (They’ll last seven to 10 days.) Refrigerate greens separately, also in a plastic bag.

Rrefrigerate berries, unwashed and in their original container. Blueberries and strawberries should keep for five to seven days; more fragile raspberries and blackberries up to two days.

Refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag. It’ll keep for three to five days.

Refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag for up to three weeks.

Refrigerate, stem side down, in a sealed plastic bag. It’ll last three to five days.

Refrigerate one to two weeks in a sealed bag. Keep in the front of the refrigerator, where it’s less apt to freeze.

Citrus fruits
Store oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit on the counter. They can last up to two weeks.

Refrigerate ears still in the husk. They’ll last up to two days.

Refrigerate, either in the crisper or in a plastic bag elsewhere in the fridge. They’ll last four to five days.

Store in the pantry, or any similar location away from heat and light. It’ll last up to four months.

Green beans
Refrigerate in a plastic bag for three to four days.

Green onions
Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Fresh herbs can last seven to 10 days in the refrigerator. “When I use fresh herbs and store them in my refrigerator at home, I keep them in air-tight containers with a damp paper towel on the top and bottom,” says Raymond Southern, the executive chef at The Back Bay Hotel in Boston. “This keeps them fresh.”

Leafy greens
Refrigerate unwashed. Full heads will last five to seven days that way, instead of three to four days for a thoroughly drained one. Avoid storing in the same drawer as apples, pears or bananas, which release ethylene gases that act as a natural ripening agent.

Take out of the package and store in a paper bag in the refrigerator, or place on a tray and cover with a wet paper towel. They’ll last two to three days.

Stored in the pantry, away from light and heat, they’ll last three to four weeks.

Ripen on the counter in a paper bag punched with holes, away from sunlight. Keep peaches (as well as plums and nectarines) on the counter until ripe, and then refrigerate. They’ll last another three to four days.

Store on the counter, ideally, in a bowl with bananas and apples, and then refrigerate after ripening. They’ll last another three to four days.

Refrigerated in a plastic bag perforated with holes, they’ll last three to five days.

Refrigerated, they’ll last four to five days.

Store them in the pantry away from sunlight and heat, and they’ll last two to three months.

Refrigerate. They’ll last 10 to 14 days.

Summer squash
Refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag. They’ll last four to five days.

Spread them out on the counter out of direct sunlight for even ripening. After ripening, store stem side down in the refrigerator and they’ll last two to three days.

Tropical fruit
Mangoes, papayas, pineapples and kiwifruit should be ripened on the counter. Ripen mangos in a paper bag in a cool place, and then refrigerates them for another two to five days.

Kept at room temperature on the counter, it’ll last up to two weeks.

Winter squashes
Store on the counter for up to two weeks.

Store Your Food Correctly to Maximize Its Shelf Life

A lot of people have become so far removed from natural foods that they will eye every minor imperfection with suspicion. But these surface imperfections, like small "bruises" on fruits for example, or a minute speck of mold on a piece of cheese, or a bit of wilting, is not what will make you sick. They can be cut off and the food will still be fine to eat.

The danger of spoiled food comes from bacteria you can't see, smell or taste. The vast majority of the food recalls in recent years have actually been processed foods and pre-packaged produce. Due to preservatives and packaging methods used, these foods may have looked pristine, but were still contaminated with disease-causing bacteria.

That said, if you know how to store your produce, you can make your food stay crisp and fresh longer, without adding unsavory chemicals to your diet.

First, you'll want to make sure your fridge is kept cold enough -- below 4 degrees Celsius. This will ensure food safety. Also leave enough space in your fridge for cold air to circulate. If your refrigerator is too tightly packed, your food will spoil faster.

Next, you'll want to properly store each individual food.

To best preserve beets, for example, you would remove the green tops and refrigerate the beets and the greens in separate plastic bags, while corn should be refrigerated while still in the husk to stay fresh the longest.

Citrus fruits, on the other hand, can last up to two weeks right on the counter, while garlic and onions need to be stored in a dark, cool pantry, where they will stay fresh for up to four months.

Herbs can be notoriously tricky to keep from wilting, but if you keep them in an air-tight container wrapped in a moistened paper towel, they'll maintain their freshness for up to ten days in your fridge. 

The life of leafy greens can also be extended by as much as three extra days if you don't wash them before putting them in your fridge.

Also keep in mind that apples, pears, and bananas release natural ripening agents that will hasten the demise of any other produce placed in their vicinity. 

You Simply MUST Do This With Your Produce

Oxygen, in most cases, is not food's friend as it accelerates food decay. A simple way you can protect most of your produce from the damaging effects of oxygen in the air is to make sure you "vacuum pack" your produce.

You can easily do this using the bag at the grocery produce section to store your vegetables, and then put the bag against your chest and use your arm to squeeze the produce against your chest and force all the air out of the bag. 
Once the air is removed you can seal it with a twist tie and thus minimize exposure to oxygen.

This simple technique can easily double or triple the normal shelf life of your vegetables by keeping oxygen away from them.

Failing to Plan Means You are Planning to Fail

Planning your meals is important for a number of reasons, one of which is reducing the amount of food that will go to waste; since you'll only buy what you need each time you hit the store.

It will also go a long way to help you raise the nutritional content of your meals, as lack of planning combined with time constraints tend to be the number one reason for poor eating habits.

I recommend buying your food locally, preferably from a small organic farming operation you can visit and inspect for yourself. Not only will this guarantee you the freshest foods, giving you a few extra days of leeway before they spoil, this practice is also the most environmentally friendly, leaving the tiniest carbon footprint.

Also keep in mind that eating fresh, raw foods – selected to suit your nutritional type --is THE way to be optimally healthy.

This is such an important step, and now it's easier and less expensive than ever.

The solution to waste is NOT to load up on more processed or canned foods simply because you can store them until the end of time. Their extreme shelf life comes at a high price as they are loaded with chemical preservatives. And, as if that's not enough of a health hazard, many processed foods are packaged in boxes and cans that leach additional toxins into your food.

Processed "convenience foods" really don't save you much time either. In one study, the difference between meals involving more than 50 percent convenience foods, compared to limited use of such items, was negligible. 
Meals still took an average of 52 minutes to prepare. The only difference seen was the amount of time spent on hands-on preparation, where the use of convenience foods saved an average of 10 to 12 minutes.

However, if you want to save money, steer clear of those precut, ready-to-use foods, as they can cost twice as much as the uncut and unprepared versions.

Remember, the fresher your foods are to start with, the longer they'll be safe to eat, so choose small amounts of the freshest foods you can find and eat them as soon as possible.

Vegetables, in particular, begin to lose their nutritional value shortly after harvesting. If you have to choose between frozen or canned vegetables, frozen is better, but still cannot compare to fresh.

To use up foods that are at the height of freshness, you can also cook in large quantities, and store the surplus in glass containers in your fridge or freezer. 
This is perhaps the easiest way to ensure you have a healthy lunch each day.

To balance out the extra time spent cooking, you can eat many foods raw while you're on the go. Ideally, at least one third of your food should be eaten raw, such as vegetables, seeds, nuts, dairy, and organic eggs.

Vegetable juicing is also an excellent way to get more raw food into your diet, but it will need to be made fresh each day.

Last but not least, meal planning should also include planning what to do with the leftovers. 

Waste Not, Want Not…

Taking steps in your own life to eliminate food waste makes you part of the solution and not the problem. And, if you act on the dietary suggestions above, you'll also improve your health.

Once you become accustomed to planning your meals and eating the best-quality foods for your nutritional type, I'm certain you'll never look back. I can guarantee you'll start experiencing increased energy, weight normalization, and other health benefits that will make any time spent in your kitchen well worth it.

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