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Stocked up on vegetables and fruits, only to find them spoilt a couple of days later? How do you avoid this? Follow these tips, turn into a food storage pro, eat fresh and save money in the process
There is nothing more depressing than reaching out for that pumpkin to make a nice and healthy soup for the kids, only to realize that it's gone squishy and smelling bad. It's sad on multiple levels - you really had a good recipe to get that healthy pumpkin into your kids' bellies, you feel bad that food got wasted, and you have to plan a new healthy dinner quickly that doesn't need pumpkins.
So, how does one ensure that fruits and vegetables stay fresh? While the best thing to do, of course, is to buy vegetables fresh from the market every two days or so, but how many of us have that luxury? The usual urban practice is to stock up on fruits and vegetables for the week ahead. The thought of a kitchen garden is great, but the last you checked in on your garden - one pot had two chilies and the other a little pudina sprig, and we all know we need more than that to cook meals!
So apart from the obvious benefits of increasing the shelf life of vegetables and fruits - it is important to store veggies and fruits properly because well-stored veggies and fruits retain nutrients longer and ensures healthy eating habits. Proper storage can avoid wastage and ultimately helps save the family budget.
Different vegetable and plant produce need different storing techniques. The best policy is to copy how these are stored originally in supermarkets. For example, if you are buying frozen, cut veggies, always keep them in your freezer.
1. Use breathable bags: Store fruits and vegetables in breathable vegetable bags so they are able to absorb moisture and air. When kept in sealed plastic bags, fruits and vegetables spoil faster.
2. Wash and dry green chilies: Green chilies can rot fast. To avoid this - wash and pat dry green chilies or let them dry on a towel. Remove their stalks and then place them in a paper box and store them in the fridge.
3. Put grapes on a paper napkin: Grapes tend to get moldy because of moisture build-up. You can remove grapes from the box they came in, wash, and gently pat dry. The best thing would be to place a paper towel in an open container or box and place it in the fridge.
4. Do not wash mushrooms: Mushrooms don't do well after being washed; just place them in a sealed container in the fridge.
5. Keep capsicums (bell peppers) in a bag: Place all the capsicums - green, red and yellow in a paper or vegetable bag and store them in the fridge. They'll stay firm for about two weeks.
6. Remove berries from boxes: Berries are lovely, sweet and but easily bruised. Nobody wants to eat a squishy berry that tastes a bit pungent. You can remove them from the boxes they came in and place them in a single layer on a paper towel in an open container. The trick is not to place them in a pile. Do not wash berries beforehand. Wash just before you eat them. Wetness makes mold grow and spoils berries. Then store in the fridge and use when needed as a yummy snack.
If you want your veggies and fruits to stay fresh for longer, follow these basic rules in storing them. Make a not how much you are able to save at the end of the month as you are wasting less and thus spending less on vegetables.
1. Separate ethylene emitting/producing fruits and veggies: Many fruits and vegetables emit a gas called ethylene as they ripen. This gas can prematurely ripen even other foods that are sensitive to it. This can be avoided by keeping ethylene-producing foods away from ethylene-sensitive foods. Avocados, musk melons, kiwis, bananas, mangoes, pears, and tomatoes, are ethylene-producing fruits and should be stored in a different place than your apples, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, and watermelon. There is a long list of fruits to store separately.
2. Store in a dark place: Keep potatoes, garlic and onions in a cool, dry place, but not in the fridge. They should stay for about a month. Open trays or baskets work well.
3. Unripe outside, ripe in the fridge: Place unripe fruits like pears, mangoes, avocados, papayas, melons on the counter. After they're ripe, move them to the fridge. Note they will not ripen in the fridge (cold conditions), so do not place unripe fruits in the fridge.
4. Place greens in a bag: Keep greens like palak, methi, coriander and fresh herbs like pudina in bags filled with a little air and sealed tightly. Clean the stalks and roots and remove slightly damaged leaves to avoid rotting.
5. Store citrus fruits on kitchen counters: Citrus fruits such as oranges, mosambis and lemons will not spoil for up to a week in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight. There is no need to store in the fridge. If you need to store beyond a week - you can lengthen their lives by storing them in the fridge in a net bag.
6. Wrap in tin foil: Wrap celery, colander in aluminum foil and store to lock in its freshness.
7. Separate bags: Some types of vegetables such as carrots and broccoli start to spoil as soon as they're picked, so place these in separate bags and place them in the vegetable section of the fridge.
8. Store in glass containers: If you like to wash, dry, and cut your vegetables in advance like on a Sunday to save time on weekdays - try storing them in covered glass containers lined in paper kitchen towels. You can always spot them in the fridge - which is a good reminder - out of sight - out of mind right? Also, it will keep the moisture at bay.
9. Buy as you need: This is something that can be achieved if planned ahead. Make mental notes or try and plan the week's meal plans ahead - so you only buy the vegetables you need and in this manner avoid wastage.
10. Throw away rotten stuff immediately: If you notice any rotten fruits and vegetables in the fridge, throw them away immediately or better yet, add them to your compost pit. If you leave the rotting vegetable, it will spoil the rest of the vegetables in the bag as well. One rotten apple will indeed spoil the others.
11. Wrap in newspaper: Vegetables like avocado make for exotic dishes, but sometimes don't ripen. "Wrapping in a newspaper and storing at room temperature is a good way to ensure that avocado ripens. It is terrible that after buying this expensive vegetable, it does not ripe. This is a good method," says Jyoti Mehta, home baker and mother of two girls.
Pro tips to help you store veggies and fruits properly
When kids eat fresh produce, they have better chances of absorbing all the nutrients and goodness from it. As parents, we certainly have a lot on our plate. Plan food budgets, avoid junk foods, figure out clever hacks to get vegetables like brinjals into bellies, (remember the TV commercial where the kid is served brinjal on a pizza). So, it is always a good feeling when you open the fridge door and find it full of fresh fruits and vegetables! The struggle is real! Merry cooking and happy meals!