Veggie Care 101

“How do I keep my carrots from getting wobbly and my lettuce from wilting when I get it home?”

Questions along those lines are very common at the beginning of the season, especially as folks are getting big boxes and bags full of goodies from their CSA share or farmers’ market shopping excursions.

THE key point to remember: most vegetables are very high in water content. The chilly air in a refrigerator is very dry, and sucks moisture out of all produce (even beets will get wilted!).

However, since our vegetables are picked so fresh, they should keep a very long time for you in the refrigerator….IF you make sure to keep that moisture contained! For most items, that simply means putting them in a tightly-sealed plastic bag or sealed container and trying to make sure most of the air is removed.

Plastic bags can be used over and over again for various vegetables, and you’ll find that even our fresh lettuces will keep upwards of two weeks in this manner. Carrots stay crispy, chard stays puffy and brilliant – you get the idea! Sure, using a lot of plastic bags maybe isn’t ideal. But re-use of bags helps and air-tight reusable containers (either glass or plastic) are great alternatives.

For ALL green leafies (lettuce, chard, chinese cabbage, kale, etc.), the most important thing is to make sure the bag they are sealed as much as possible to keep air out. When I wrap up chard in a bag and store it in my ‘fridge, it keeps for nearly two weeks and lettuces will keep this way as well.

Carrots, beets, summer squash, peppers, beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, cucumbers, and peas will also all keep for a long time in a plastic bag or plastic container in the fridge.

Eggplant can be cold-sensitive. It’s best if you can use them within a few days, but I do keep them in the ‘fridge.

Potatoes, garlic, winter squash, and onions should be stored in a dark environment at room temperature or a little cooler. Something like a cupboard works well. I tend not to store them in a basement, as many basements tend to be damp and humid…but maybe yours is different.

Tomatoes should NEVER go into a refrigerator unless you’re at risk of not using them before they go bad. A cold environment will suck the flavor out of a tomato in very short order, so refrigerate only if you absolutely have to.

If you’re awash in tomatoes and don’t feel like making sauce to freeze or can, you can freeze whole tomatoes! I do this all the time and it provides a great-tasting addition to winter soups and casseroles without the added salt, herbs, and preservatives you’d get in processed tomatoes from the store. Simple cut out the top part of the core and pack them in bags. When they thaw, the skins will just slip off. Sure, they’ll be mushy, but you’re adding flavor to winter dishes, and although they won’t taste like summertime tomatoes, they WILL taste better than grocery store ‘cardboard’ tomatoes!

We’ll try to pass along some other ‘putting by’ tips and tricks during the season.

Do YOU have any tricks and tips to share with other veggie lovers? Let us know!

Customer Jacqueline C. adds:  “To preserve onions, peppers and tomatillos – I clean and slice the peppers and onions and freeze them in bags. I core the tomatillos and freeze them whole.  Like tomatoes, the tomatillos will be mushy but will still make great salsa”  Thanks, Jacqueline!

A tip from customer Jude P: “Instead of freezing whole raw tomatoes, I roast them for at about 45 minutes at 375. Let them sit until relatively cool and the skin comes off nicely. If pressed for time, leave the skin on and remove them before cooking. They can be frozen and used later. Roasting concentrates the flavor and gives the tomatoes a more natural taste when thawed.  I use them in salsas,sauces and soups.  They are not as mushy as frozen raw tomatoes. You can season them with olive oil, salt, pepper and whole oregano and/or basil before roasting for a yummy sauce.”   Wow – this sounds fantastic…something I’ll have to try!

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