2. Storage Of Fresh Vegetables
Lettuce should be as fresh as possible. Of course the ideal would be to have lettuce picked fresh from the garden before the meal. If you are buying lettuce, get a three, or four days’ supply, but wash only as needed. (If you don’t want to wait to wash the lettuce at meal time, wash enough for a day or two and store in tightly closed pliofilm bags in your crisper. The stored lettuce should not be wet, nor totally dry. It will keep best if slightly moist.) Your unwashed supply of lettuce may also be stored in pliofilm bags in your crisper. The softer the lettuce, the sooner you should use it. Bibb, Boston and leaf lettuce wilt sooner than romaine.
If it is necessary to store lettuce for longer periods of time, a different method may be used. When we lived in Indianapolis, we ordered organically-grown lettuce from California in the winter once a month, and we kept it fresh with very little deterioration for a week or longer, by storing in layers in the crisper drawer, covered by damp paper towels, watching and culling daily, and adding water to moisten the towels as they dried.
Sweet red ripe bell peppers and cucumbers are very perishable and don’t keep well in bags. They tend to become slimy when bagged. I store them loose in the crisper drawer; they seem to last longer this way. Sweet green bell peppers last a little longer. I also store tomatoes loose in the crisper drawer.
Store celery or celery cabbage in pliofilm bags. Add a few drops of water to the bag. Don’t buy more than you can use in three or four days.
Broccoli turns yellow in a few days. If very fresh when you get it, it may last an extra day or two. I have a very large-lidded plastic refrigerator storage box, which I find convenient for storing broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, brussels sprouts, eggplant, etc. Always put summer squash, broccoli and eggplant on the top layer, since they are more fragile than other items. If you don’t have such a box, use pliofilm bags.
Cabbage will stay fresh for a week or longer if stored in a pliofilm bag in your refrigerator.
For best quality corn, buy it the day you plan to eat it. If it must be stored, leave it in the husk, and put in a tightly-closed pliofilm bag; store it in the refrigerator.
Eggplants damage easily. Store in the refrigerator, but protect from bruising, as indicated previously. They will keep well for only a few days.
Store peas in pliofilm bags in the refrigerator; shell immediately before using. Use within a few days.
Green beans lose their bright green color and deteriorate rapidly. Store in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator; use as soon as possible. The same applies to wax beans, pole beans and Italian green beans. They all deteriorate rapidly and should be used within a few days. If freshly picked, they may last a little longer—but if you are lucky enough to get freshly-picked beans in any of these varieties, you ought to eat them the same day, if possible, to take advantage of the freshly-picked flavor and optimal nutrition. And, since they are so fresh, you will be able to eat them without cooking.
Globe artichokes and asparagus deteriorate rapidly—use as soon as possible. Asparagus may be stored a day or two, fresh artichokes a little longer. If you must store asparagus, wrap the butt ends in a damp paper towel and place in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator. Store artichokes in the refrigerator in a pliofilm bag.
Jerusalem artichokes will keep in the refrigerator in a pliofilm bag for about a week, sometimes longer.
Okra is quite perishable, but will keep for two or three days in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator.
Parsley will stay green a few days in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh water chestnuts are very perishable. If you buy these sweet, juicy, expensive treats, eat them right away.
Fresh podded beans (cranberry beans, lima beans, etc.) can be stored in the refrigerator in pliofilm bags for a few days, depending on how fresh they are. It might be better to remove them from the pods, where they tend to become slimy, if you must store them for several days.
The chayote will keep well for a week or more in the crisper drawer.
Greens (kale, collards, etc.) do not keep well and should be used quickly. They wilt and grow yellow. Store in pliofilm bags for two or three days.
Kohlrabi keeps well, like a root vegetable. Remove the tops and store in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator.
Mushrooms are very perishable—it is best to use them within a day or two after purchasing; store in a pliofilm bag in the refrigerator.
Potatoes: Some experts on the storage of vegetables say that potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place, but never in the refrigerator, although some of them do advise that freshly dug or new potatoes with thin skins keep best in the refrigerator.
The Department of Agriculture says that white potatoes will keep several months if stored in a cool, dark place with good ventilation at 45 to 50 degrees. Higher temperatures will cause shriveling and sprouting, and exposure to light will cause greening (evidence of the presence of solanine, a poisonous alkaloid). As previously indicated, don’t buy potatoes with the “sunburned” spots. If potatoes are stored at below 40 degrees, they will dextrinize—that is, develop a sweet taste as starch changes to sugar, after which they will spoil rapidly. Cooking potatoes also serves to dextrinize the starch.
If you live in a warm climate—or for summer storage of potatoes or other root vegetables anywhere—where are you going to find a constant, dependable temperature of over 40 degrees and under 50 degrees? I have heard about root cellars for this type of storage, but, lacking a root cellar, my only solution is a refrigerator with the proper storage temperature. If I try to store them in my kitchen or on my patio, I lose them right away. My refrigerator preserves them very well. I store them in tightly-closed pliofilm bags.
Sweet Potatoes, other root vegetables, miscellaneous: Other root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and beets also keep best at around 40 degrees and a relatively high humidity—in the refrigerator, of course, in tightly-closed pliofilm bags. Be sure to cut the tops off your root vegetables before storing them, because the roots deteriorate as the greens wilt. If you set your refrigerator at about 42 degrees, it will be safe for all your food.
Sweet potatoes and winter squash are another matter—they require warmer, drier conditions, not lower than 50 degrees. It is best to keep them in a cool place in the kitchen or on the patio. Sweet potatoes will keep a few days to a week, hard-skinned winter squash a little longer.
Summer squash is quite perishable, but may be stored in the refrigerator in pliofilm bags for several days.
- 1. Vegetables
- 2. Storage Of Fresh Vegetables
- 3. Purchasing And Storing Seeds For Sprouting And Ready-To-Eat Sprouts
- 4. Selection And Storage Of Dried Grains And Legumes
- 5. Bread—General Information
- 6. Butter And Oil—General Information
- 7. Sweeteners
- 8. Packaged, Frozen And Canned Foods—General Information And Storage
- 9. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Well! You Wanted To Know By V.V. Vetrano, B.S., D.C.