Summer time and the living’s easy…
Loads of fresh fruit and vegetables show up at the farmers market and grocery store shelves this time of year. If you’re like me you just want to buy everything in sight and often end up with too much. Below are some tips for making your summer produce retain their nutrients, last longer and taste better.
A Few General Guidelines
Do Not Store Fruits and Vegetables Together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables. (Think of the "one bad apple" adage.)
For Vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.
For Fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.
Cleaning: Leave refrigerated produce unwashed in its original packaging or wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. (Exceptions are mushrooms and herbs). If your greens seem sandy or dirty—think lettuce from the farmers’ market—rinse and dry them well, then wrap them in a paper towel before placing in a plastic bag. Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature should be removed from any packaging and left loose.
Greens - use a bath towel. I prepare my greens by cutting them into bite-sized pieces, washing them en masse, and shaking off the excess water in a salad spinner. Then I spread the greens out on clean bath towels to air dry for a few hours. When it’s time to store the greens (or I need my counter back), I simply roll the towels up with the greens inside. The rolls are secured with rubber bands and stored in the bottom shelf of the fridge. Each night, I unroll just enough greens for my salads and then bundle them up again. The absorbent towels do a great job of keeping the greens moist but not damp so they stay fresh and crispy all week long. This also saves time during the week when you’re rushed and tired - the greens are already ready to go.
Bananas - wrap the stem end. If you’re like you me, bananas are always in the house but keeping them from turning brown requires some serious magic. I can go to bed at night with green bananas and somehow the next morning they’re brown. The trick to keeping them at just the right freshness is to use plastic wrap around the stem end, where they are all stuck together (the crown as its called in the farming world). This method prevents ethylene gas, produced naturally in the ripening process, from reaching other parts of the fruit and prematurely ripening it. The key is to wrap it TIGHTLY!
Berries - Wash the berries in a diluted vinegar bath (1 cup vinegar plus 3 cups water) and spin them dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels until they are completely dry (dry by hand for the more delicate berries like raspberries). Store the cleaned berries in a glass sealable container lined with paper towels.The vinegar destroys bacteria and mold spores on the berries, helping them stay fresh longer.
Spicy Cucumber & Cantaloupe Salad
August is a great month to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies and the perfect side dish to any meal, I like to serve this with white fish or use as a salsa over blackened cod tacos.
2 tbsp. tamari or low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 small red or green jalapeno, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c. torn fresh mint leaves
1 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, flesh thinly sliced & cubed
Whisk together tamari, lime juice, and ginger in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, combine jalapeno, mint leaves, cucumber, and cantaloupe. Add dressing and stir to coat.