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Sep 25, 2021 | Samuel Albert
The places where I store my food in the kitchen are the constant, silent reminders of my next bout of shopping. So, before making my grocery list, I take a tour of all the places where I store my fruits, veggies, and other things to ensure that I don't miss anything important. Forgetfulness at times like these is inexcusable, as lockdown shopping ordeals and enduring long lines are torturous. However, shopping is one thing, and wisely storing and using all that is bought is another - both are crucial at times like these. So here I will be talking about the proper ways and places to store vegetables to avoid wastage and save you from shopping frequently.
Choosing the right storage place and storage methods, good aeration, temperature, and ethylene emitting and absorbing nature of the produce stored adjacently, are the key factors of the prolonged shelf life of fruits and vegetables. While some are best stored at room temperature, others last longer in the refrigerator's controlled environment. In addition, ethylene gas emission from some fruits promotes quick ripening and decay of some ethylene-absorbing produce.
Different Ways You Can Store Fruits and Vegetables in The Kitchen
How many storage ways or areas do you have in your home kitchen? All those in your mind are correct, and you can add at least one more to the list. Here's where and how you can store fruits and vegetables in the kitchen.
Keep Onions Separate, Cool, and Dry
I always store the allium family in a dry container without a lid. Wait! What's in the allium family? Onions and garlic are a part of the allium family. These vegetables love low humidity, cool, and dark places with decent air circulation. Since moisture can spoil them, here's how you can keep them fresh and usable for long:
Even if the alliums start growing green shoots, you shouldn't worry as they are safe to eat. If you are not comfortable eating the sprouts, you can cut them out and use the rest of the onion.
photo by Markus Spiske/pexels
Onion Strings - Do you know the older generations used a special technique to store onions fresh for a long duration? The method is named “Onion Stringing.” You can use it to store a week’s supply. Here’s how to create strings the right way.
This technique keeps onions fresher through better air circulation and is aesthetically pleasing as well.
How to Store Other Vegetables for Maximum Use and Least Wastage?
When do you plan how and where to store your vegetables at home? I strategize this before or during grocery shopping. Yes, buying the right product is as crucial as keeping it the right way. Buying the freshest vegetables ensures the longest storage life for them in your kitchen.
For instance, go for richly colored ones over yellowing leaves for leafy vegetables. For onions, squashes, and cabbages, choose those without soft spots or blemishes and heavy ones.
photo by engin akyurt/unsplash
Potatoes: Before jumping to the storing guide, let's understand that potatoes are ethylene-sensitive. That's why they should always be kept away from ethylene emitters like bananas and onions.
When stored in a dark and cool place, the starchy and waxy potatoes can last for weeks. You can put them in a cellar or air-conditioned pantry but make sure they aren't stored close to heat-generating appliances. Alternatively, you can use ventilated bins or baskets to keep them. A sturdy cardboard box with holes on its sides is also a good option. The basic idea is to allow proper air circulation and no light inside.
If potatoes are turning green, it means that they are exposed to sunlight. While potatoes with sprouts are still safe to eat, green skin indicates toxicity. The same goes for sweet potatoes, as refrigerating them will cause hardness at the center, causing cooking difficulties. Even sweet potatoes with sprouts are good to eat, but you will need to throw them away if they are rotten, moldy, or shriveled.
Roots and Tubers: This category includes storage superstars like ginger, carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, and rutabagas. They don't create a fuss, don't release ethylene, and have a longer shelf life. Thus, tossing them with leafy greens won't cause a problem. However, when buying turnips, beets, or carrots with their green tops, make sure to remove their tops before storing them.
Radishes from the root family have a shelf life of up to three weeks in the fridge. And when you store them in airtight containers with their green part attached, you can further extend their lifespan.
Why is removing greens essential before storing root vegetables? That's because the shoots can suck out the moisture out of the vegetable, shortening its shelf life. However, you can leave the tops intact if you store them separately in airtight containers or zip-top bags, reducing your wastage. For instance, turnip and beet greens add to the deliciousness of stir-fries and soups.
The Cabbage Cousins: Versatility, hardness, and humbleness are what make cabbage and its cousins (cauliflower and broccoli) great. They add shimmer to your stir-fries, salads, slaws, soups, and braises. A whole cabbage head will keep good for something like forever in your refrigerator.
Don't have that much space to keep a complete cabbage head? Cut them into quarters and store them in zip-top bags, and they will still last for a very long period. However, you may find edges oxidizing after one or two weeks. But that's not an issue. You can cut out the oxidized part, and the leftover cabbage is still as good as new.
For cauliflower and broccoli, the crowns stored in containers with lids or plastic bags stay fresh for a couple of weeks.
Winter Squashes: Room temperature won't hurt a winter squash; instead, it would be better for those thick-skin gourds. Thus, you can save your refrigerator space for other vegetables. Cool, dry, and dark corners are best suited to store Japanese squash, acorn, and butternut.
Wondering how long a winter squash can last? Cheese pumpkins have a shelf life extending to several months. I have stored them for the longest of six months. However, there may be times when you won't be using the entire squash in your recipe. You can still refrigerate the leftover part for good use later. Take a plastic bag or sealed container to store the peeled and cut squashes until you use them again.
Leafy Greens: How many leafy greens can you think of right now? Escarole, lettuce, and celery are a few I can think of.
You might know that moisture tends to speed up the rotting of leafy vegetables, particularly when stored in a refrigerator. Thus, unwashed greens stay fresh longer. However, there might be times when you want to wash them before storing them. In that case, you can use butcher paper, paper towel, or clean towel to wrap them for absorbing the extra moisture. But that still won't give your greenies the extended shelf life as it could cause over-drying, leading to wilting. The best way to store them is by discarding all the slimy and brown leaves and using airtight or zip-top bags.
Celery belongs to a different class. Store it in a zip-top bag, and it will stay crisp for up to two weeks. Another way to store celery stalks is by cutting them into sticks, submerging them in water, and using sealed containers for storage.
Lettuce Needs Special Attention
Although humidity is good for lettuce like many other vegetables, that's not the only thing that keeps it fresh. Lettuce greens also need air circulation. Thus, crisper drawers and plastic bags might be okay but not the best place to store them. Instead, you can extend its shelf life by creating a moist environment featuring proper air circulation.
Do you know how restaurants store lettuce? They wash the lettuce greens, spin dry, and then use a perforated container to store them in the fridge. You can copy them to keep your leafy greens fresh and crispy.
Another Special Case – Mushrooms
How are you storing mushrooms in your kitchen?
The best approach for me has been ditching the plastic containers and using paper bags instead. There's sound logic behind this. Mushrooms are rich in water content that gets evaporated during the storage period. If you keep the edible fungus in a plastic bag, you will be pushing them to go slimy as the plastic traps the released water. On the other hand, a paper bag allows mushrooms to breathe by not holding the evaporated water inside.
Storing Tomatoes – Fruits Used as Vegetables
You read that right. Technically, tomatoes (along with corn, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini) belong to the category of fruits. But the way we prepare and serve them makes them look more like vegetables.
The best way to store them is by keeping them away from direct sunlight on your kitchen countertop. The room temperature will ensure even ripening of tomatoes, and after this, you can store them in the refrigerator.
Do you put them directly in your fridge? You might have experienced a grainy texture, and they might lose some taste as well.
It is better to leave the tomatoes over the counter. However, you can store them inside the fridge if you don't mind the change in texture and taste and want your tomatoes to last longer. Use them within two weeks, though.
How to Store Canned Vegetables?
If you are buying canned vegetables often, you might have already observed "use by date" and "storage" guidelines on them. Follow those instructions impeccably, and you can keep them for an extended period.
Usually, canned vegetables stay in good shape for a year or two. Here, labeling the containers with dates will allow you to keep track and use cans accordingly. However, you can still consume those canned goods after the mentioned due dates if the cans are properly stored and not damaged.
Chopped More than Required? Freeze and Don't Throw
Imagine you just finished cutting vegetables and now need to leave the house for something urgent. You have two options here – throw away the sliced veggies or store them for later use.
Freezing is an easy and quick solution at times like these. It also preserves nutrients and keeps the taste unchanged. However, you might need to blanch most vegetables before freezing them. For this, boil cut-up or whole pieces for up to two minutes and immediately cool them in ice-cold water. This way, your blanched vegetables will last for a year. But keep in mind that you can't use this method to freeze potatoes, eggplant, artichokes, lettuce greens, sprouts, sweet potatoes, and radishes.