Nature made food is medicinal and what everyone should be eating for optimal health and wellbeing. However, unlike processed fake foods, nature made foods have a very short shelf life in comparison to lab made fare, which is why harvesting or purchasing only in amounts that you’ll eat within a week is a good rule of thumb to follow. That being said, there are ways in which you can naturally extend the lifespan of your nature made food, saving you money and some extra trips to the market.
1: Harvest Only What You’ll Immediately Use: If you garden, or container garden, ONLY harvest what you’ll use right away, or within 2 days at the most. Fruits and vegetables are best eaten and at their maximum nutrient quotient when they are allowed to FULLY ripen before harvesting. Additionally, their flavors are amazingly more intense and delicious if harvested and consumed at ripeness.
2: Store Fresh Mushrooms in Paper Bags: Even if you purchase fresh mushrooms in bulk, with the exception of farmers markets, the stores will only provide you with plastic bags to take home your bulk produce. Mushrooms quickly become wrinkled, withered and mildewed when contained in plastic, so immediately transfer them into a brown paper bag and store them in your fridge.
3: Fresh Ginger Actually Keeps Best in the Freezer: Fresh ginger is amazingly delicious and versatile, and I personally go through quite a bit on a regular basis, since I like to add it to my juices and smoothies. What I found, is that ginger will keep fresh longer if stored in the freezer AND it also grates much easier if frozen.
4: Store Fresh Tomatoes on Kitchen Counter: Tomatoes will rot faster than fast inside plastic bags. Additionally, they are best kept at room temperature on your kitchen counter. If you have some that are just past ripe, then you can transfer them to the fridge to extend their lifespan another couple of days. Typically, at this point they might be too soft to use for some dishes, so this is when you can use your just past ripe tomatoes for soups, sauces, stews and juicing.
5: Wrap Celery, Broccoli and Lettuce in Foil: Wrapping celery, broccoli and lettuce in foil with a sheet of paper towel placed between the veggies and the foil, will help keep these items fresh and useable for up to 3-4 weeks. If the paper towels becomes wet with moisture, replace with a dry piece.
6: Wrap Banana Ends in Plastic Wrap: When purchasing bananas in a bunch, do not individually separate them. Instead, tightly wrap some plastic wrap around the bunch end and pull off only the number of bananas you’ll use right away. Additionally, bananas produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit, so do not keep them stored next to any other produce, instead keep them stored by themselves.
7: Store Fresh Asparagus Like Fresh Flowers: Immediately after harvesting or purchasing fresh asparagus, trim off the thick part of the stems and store them cut side down in a glass jar fill with a couple inches of water in the fridge. If you LOOSELY put a plastic bag over the top, these two storage tips combined can help your fresh asparagus stay fresh and delicious for up to 7 days.
8: Toss Rotten Apples: It’s true, one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch, barrel or bowl. If you have a bowl of apples and notice that one of them is wrinkly, puckered, has brown or soft spots, quickly discard it so that it doesn’t effect the remaining apples.
9: Keep Leftover Cut Avocado, Apple and Potatoes Fresh with a Squeeze of Lemon or Lime Juice: If you have any leftover cut avocados, apples or potatoes, whether they are halved, diced, mashed or spiralized, you can keep them fresh and prevent browning by spritzing or drizzling them with a little fresh lemon or lime juice. This will also preserve them an extra day or two as well.
10: Keep Berries Fresh Longer With Vinegar: Fresh Berries (any) will stay fresher longer if given a vinegar water bath before storing in the fridge. Combine 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Let your fresh berries soak for about 5 minutes before rinsing, draining and then storing in the fridge. Fresh raspberries will stay delicious and fresh for 7-10 days, and fresh strawberries for up to 2 weeks, with no vinegar aftertaste.
11: Hang Onions in Pantyhose in Cool Dark Location: While this may sound like an off-the-wall idea, storing onions this way can keep them fresh for up to 8 full months.
12: Keep Your Fridge Clean: Don’t keep overlooking those areas of spilled food and beverage in your fridge. In addition to growing odors, once food has gone bad in your fridge it can leave behind mold, and nothing will “eat up” your fresh food faster than a colony of mold. Clean and disinfect your fridge at least every 2 weeks. And, if anything spills or spoils inside, clean up and disinfect that area immediately.
13: Don’t Overcrowd Your Fridge: Air needs to circulate around your food items in order to keep them cool. An overly stocked or crowded fridge can create warm spots and spaces, quickly leading to food spoilage.
14: Keep Your Fridge Temperature Set Between 35-40 Degrees Fahrenheit: Anything warmer and you risk growing harmful food bacteria.
15: Store Fresh Cut Produce in Glass Instead of Plastic: Not only is glass a better alternative to plastic when it comes to environmental and health concerns (BPA and other dangerous chemicals used to make plastic leaches into food), but it also helps keep food fresh longer. Store fresh cut, diced, or small piece produce in glass mason jars (with, or without, a little water), and they’ll keep fresh a few days longer.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews