10 Ways to Make Produce Last Longer
We all know that a produce-heavy diet is a healthy diet. Still, shelling out money for a cartload of fresh groceries, only to have half of them go bad before they’re eaten, can push even the most well-intentioned eater into the snack foods aisle. To avoid wasting food, time, and most importantly, money, we asked three produce experts how to make fruits and vegetables last longer. Below, their 10 best tips:
1. Buy strategically. Jessie Banhazl, owner of urban farming company Green City Growers, explains that some produce varieties naturally lasts longer than others. “Typically, the leaf of the vegetable will go bad faster than the fruit or root, so lettuce, kale, parsley, etc. will go bad faster than tomatoes and eggplants, or carrots and beets,” she says.
2. Embrace your inner chef. “My favorite technique for making your harvest last longer is to convert greens and herbs into pesto,” Banhazl says. “Pesto can be made with a leafy green mixed with nuts, oil, garlic, and often parmesan cheese. You can make really fun pestos, like arugula and walnut, or parsley and almond, and then freeze your mix in ice cube trays for easy use later down the road.”
3. Store fruits and veggies separately. “Fruits and vegetables should be stored separately because some fruits release the chemical ethylene, which accelerates the ripening process,” explains Rachel Reynolds, a registered dietitian at Boston University’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center. Fruits are also likely to pick up unwanted odors and tastes from neighboring vegetables.
4. Do your research. While just about everything lasts longer with refrigeration, Reynolds explains that different kinds of produce have different storage, temperature, and humidity needs, so no more tossing everything haphazardly into the fridge. Do a quick Google search after your next shopping trip to determine how best to store your purchases.
5. Buy frozen. They may be kept next to frozen pizzas and tater tots, but Reynolds says frozen fruits and vegetables are a suitable alternative to fresh veggies. “Typically produce is frozen at the peak of freshness, meaning that levels of nutrients are high,” she says. But one caveat: “Over several months, the nutrients in frozen produce may begin to degrade.”
6. Store wisely. Reynolds emphasizes the importance of storing any produce that has been cooked, chopped, or cut in air-tight containers like plastic bags to keep it from drying out.
7. Give your greens some care. “Greens, you want to make sure you spin dry and then put them in a glass container in the refrigerator,” suggests Dan Wadleigh of Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell. “We’re finding, and our customers are telling us, everything they store in glass lasts four to five days longer.”
8. Check the bottom. Aside from the tell-tale wilted leaves, Wadleigh says to “always check the bottom of greens, make sure they’re nice and clean,” when determining if they’re overripe.
9. Buy from farmers’ markets. As opposed to the grocery store, where produce has to be shipped and processed, farmers’ market wares are about as fresh as it gets. “You’re already four or five days ahead in the process, so the freshness is already there,” Wadleigh says.
10. Air it out. “If you’re doing something like a raspberry, blueberry, smaller fruit, spread them out,” Wadleigh says. “Get them out of that container, give them some air.”