Top 5 Tips to Extend the Life of Your Summer Produce

summer-produce-storage-tips-4 In my attempts to eat seasonally, I tend to go a little overboard in the summer after a winter of canned tomatoes and sad-looking potatoes. I go to the farmer’s market, you know, just to get a few things, and come back with bagfuls of produce that I then have to use up before they go bad, unless I want to freeze or can them (which is super hard to do now that a barnacle named Owen hangs onto my leg most of the time I’m cooking).

So, here are my top 5 tips for making the most of all that summer goodness you’re bringing home these days.

Tip #1: Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator. 

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Tomatoes like warmth; I don’t know why our human instinct is to put them in the refrigerator immediately upon their arrival in our homes. Maybe it’s because deep down inside, we all still think they’re vegetables and should therefore join the vegetable ranks in the crisper drawer. I don’t know why we do this, but I do know that the fridge kills not only their flavor but also their texture. Keep them in a bowl on the counter for as long as possible. I’ll throw tomatoes in the refrigerator if they start seeming a little squishy and like they’re wanting to be overripe – but then and ONLY then.

Tip #2: Place paper towels around your greens to keep them from becoming wet and slimy. 

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Most people don’t like the word moist, and neither do most leafy greens. The best way to keep your lettuce, spinach, kale, and all their cousins from getting slimy and gross is to fold paper towels between the layers of leaves, then wrapping the entire head in a paper towel too. Then, keep them in a plastic bag this is mostly sealed…but not quite all the way. This allows just a little air in, which I like to think the leaves appreciate.

Tip #3: Store berries in a single layer in a paper-towel lined bowl in the fridge. 

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This is when we break out in a rousing rendition of All my single berries, all my single berries…” Berries do best in a single layer because they’re just so dang sensitive and mush-able; the single layer also allows them to get some air to prevent mold. The paper towel helps absorb any mushy berry’s juice before it can poison the good, firm berries. “One bad berry can spoil the whole bunch.” #wisdom

Tip #4: Place fresh herbs in “vases” like flowers to prolong their life. 

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Kept in a plastic bag, most herbs will get wilty and slimy before you can even use them. I like to treat my herbs like flowers. As soon as I get home, I fill a tall, narrow plastic or glass container with about and inch-and-a-half of water. Then, I use kitchen scissors to cut off about a half inch from the root or stem of the herb, and then place the herbs in the water. Fresh basil stays on the counter, but everything else goes with the vase in the fridge. Change the water every day or two, and cut off a little more from the stem each time you do.

Tip #5: Keep nectarines and peaches out of the fridge as long as possible. 

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Like their cousin, the tomato, nectarines and peaches like it warm. Don’t immediately come home and put them in the fridge, or you will be doing the stone fruit community a huge injustice. I only put mine in the fridge when they start to look and feel like they want to go bad. But doing so before that point is going to give you greatly decreased flavor.

Those are my time-tested tips that I use all summer. Now..what are yours?

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10 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips to Extend the Life of Your Summer Produce

  1. I have the urge to always throw the tomatoes in the fridge, but I must resist. The whole paper towel in the lettuce/greens is a life saver!

  2. I can totally relate to being seduced by produce at the farmers’ market! I also have a garden that’s going nuts at the moment. I’ve started making a shopping list for the farmers’ market in an effort not to overbuy. I don’t have any great tips–I just try to eat as many fresh fruits and veggies at every meal, before they all go bad!

    • The best tip of them all :) Glad to hear I’m not alone in my utter lack of market discipline…and you have a garden to contend with too! Keep it up!

  3. Thank you for reminding me to treat my herbs like flowers & put them in water! I remember one Thanksgiving my Hostess had some parsley, cilantro & mint as the table centerpiece, to also eat! Great idea!! I just received some fresh cilantro in my CSA bag, so into the water they go! And tomatoes, are coming out to hang on the counter! So now a great recipe for Pico Di Gallo to put all of these yummy ingredients to use:P

  4. Thanks for all these tips. I learned them all by trial and error over a long period of time and tend to think that what I finally learn is something everyone else has known forever and I’m just behind the eight ball. Or a late bloomer. Or something. So it’s a great idea to share them. I would only add one thing – about blueberries. I learned from my mom that you can store fresh blueberries in a glass jar with a lid on tight and the berries will keep for weeks. I don’t know why this is so, but it works.

    • I know! I always feel like what I’ve learned is probably common knowledge too! The blueberry thing is great – had never heard that. Have you tried it with other berries?

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