June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables MonthAlysson Toscana
Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Best Flavor
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a well-balanced diet. The United States Department of Agriculture advises diners to fill half their plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. Adult women should eat about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day. Adult men should eat about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of many health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and certain kinds of cancers. But if they’re not handled properly, fruits and veggies can also become a source of food-borne pathogens. For example, they can become contaminated with listeria, salmonella, or other bacteria. Their taste, texture, and appearance can also suffer if they’re not stored properly.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to clean and store fruits and veggies.
Make sure to place fruits and vegetables in separate, perforated plastic bags. Use within 1-3 days for maximum flavor and freshness. Store each group in different produce drawers in the refrigerator to minimize the detrimental effects of ethylene produced by the fruits on the vegetables.
To prevent moisture loss, store fruits and vegetables separately in a paper bag, perforated plastic bag, or ripening bowl on the counter away from sunlight. Ripening fruit in a bowl or paper bag can be enhanced by placing an apple with the fruit to be ripened. After ripening, store in the refrigerator and use within 1-3 days.
Many fruits and vegetables should only be stored at room temperatures. Refrigeration can cause cold damage or prevent them from ripening to good flavor and texture. For example, pink tomatoes ripen to a better taste and red color if they are left at room temperature. In the refrigerator, they do not turn red, and even red tomatoes kept in the refrigerator lose their flavor. Keep away from direct sunlight. Store garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in a well-ventilated area in the pantry. Cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers can be refrigerated for 1-3 days if they are used soon after removing from the refrigerator.
Cleaning Your Produce
Always keep produce separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Never use detergent or bleach to wash produce. Instead, rinse produce under running tap water immediately prior to use, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Washing too far in advance removes some of nature’s natural preservatives. However, head lettuce or leafy greens remain crisper when washed right away and then refrigerated. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” need not be washed. Refrigerate all cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables within 2 hours.