Buying and Storing Fresh Produce
Buying and storing fresh produce the right way is essential for success.
Because 80% to 85% of a healthy diet is living food- fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds- it’s important to make sure the nutrients are at their peak and stay well-preserved.
To maximize the freshness and flavor of the fresh produce you buy, it’s important that you know what to look for and how to store it once you get it home.
It is ideal to buy fresh produce every 2-3 days, buying just enough that you can eat in that time. Once you get the produce home, it can quickly lose both nutrients and flavor.
Also, more frequent buying helps to prevent the expense of food spoilage and waste. However, frequent shopping isn’t possible for many of us. So, we need to know the best ways for buying and storing fresh produce.
Tips for Buying and Storing Fresh Produce
Here are a few general tips for buying and storing fresh produce.
Buy only the freshest produce to begin with. Fresh produce, once off the tree or vine, will continue to either ripen or rot.
Signs of Spoilage
Look for signs that the produce will soon rot or is beginning to rot.
Do not buy produce that has:
- obvious mold
- soft or bruised areas
- cuts or nicks in the skin or peel
- wilted, shriveled or is limp
- been stored improperly – not on ice or refrigerated when it should be, such as lettuce
- been refrigerated when it should not be, like tomatoes
- a slimy feel or look
- a mildewed or rotting smell
- rusty spots, like on lettuce or green beans
Use caution when buying pre-cut produce, such as a half of green pepper, or cabbage; or a portion of a melon. There is a higher chance for bacteria to be present in these.
Personally, I do not purchase fresh pre-cut produce not only because we can easily eat the whole fruit or vegetable but also because of the additional handling and increased risk of food poisoning.
Buying and Storing Fresh Produce: The Fresher the Better
When buying and storing fresh produce, begin with buying the freshest produce you can. The freshest produce will be found at farmers’ markets or farm-direct.
However, if you can’t get it there, ask your produce department manager what days the produce trucks deliver. Try to plan your shopping for the next day or two.
Signs of Freshness & Quality
Many larger grocery stores will have signs by each kind of produce telling you what to look for in the freshest produce. If your grocery store does not provide this service, look for:
- Bright colors, for the most part. Fruit such as oranges or bananas may have some greening.
- Smells in melons and pineapple
- Firm to touch, such as apples
- Yields slightly to gentle pressure, such as peaches
- Heavy for size, like oranges or melons
- Plump, full-colored and firmly attached to the stem (grapes)
- Bagged lettuces free of condensation and slimy leaves
Keeping It Fresh
Once you get home with your fresh produce, you will need to properly store it to preserve its freshness.
Inspect the produce again for any signs of spoiling. Also look for damage that may have been done when handling or bagging your produce. Discard severely damaged produce.
For root crops, remove the greens on carrots, beets, radishes, and parsnips before storing them. Leaving them on will deplete the nutrients from the vegetable.
Before storing produce, be sure the surfaces are dry. Don’t wash produce before you are ready to use it. You can remove excess dirt from vegetables you may buy at a farmers’ market or from a CSA. Just wipe it off with paper towels or a rag.
Some fresh produce are best left at room temp, some are better in the fridge. And still some produce doe well either way.
Keep produce out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.
Keep on eye on ripening produce and put ripened pieces in the fridge to slow further ripening.
Don’t store produce in sealed plastic bags on the counter- it slows ripening and causes rotting instead.
Don’t store fruits and vegetables in the same crisper drawer.
Monitor your fridge temp to ensure it is no warmer than 40 degrees. For your produce drawers, the temperature should be around 32 degrees.
Keep your produce drawers clean and dry. You may want to line them with 1 or 2 paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
Store produce in perforated plastic bags. You can make these yourself by poking about 20 holes in plastic bag.
For maximum nutrition, freshness and flavor use all refrigerated produce within a few days.
More on Buying and Storing Fresh Produce
To learn more about buying and storing fresh produce, check out this web site:
It will give you more detailed information for specific fruits and vegetables.
Enhance your nutritional intake with the freshest produce!