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How to Store and Preserve Your Produce
As you become more dedicated to eating clean you’ll probably find yourself reaching for ways to source your farm produce from somewhere other than a conventional grocery store. You’ll tend to pay a premium for biodynamic and high quality local organic produce in the grocery store, so in order to save money and still have firsthand knowledge of how your food is being grown, it’s a good idea to think about joining a CSA for fresh organic produce or even growing your own produce. If any of these is the case, be prepared for the bounty you’ll have by following our tips on all the different ways how to store produce.
Let’s get serious, it really isn’t sustainable to rely on off-season farm produce that is being shipped from the other side of the planet. With a little planning and preparation, you can guarantee your family has access to high quality, clean fruits and vegetables all year round!
Fresh Farm Produce
There are many fruits and vegetables that actually fare well when stored in the fridge, if not better outside of the fridge. Take a tip from farmers who truly know how to store produce for maximum longevity: Despite lacking electricity, root cellars helped farmers store their produce all season long.
Produce such as squash, apples, beets, potatoes, onions, garlic, and even leeks, eggplant, brussels sprouts, peppers, and citrus fruits all do well outside of the fridge in a dark, cool, well-ventilated area. If you have an empty cabinet available in your kitchen, you can install a wire drawer organizer. Or use one of these wooden vegetable racks in your pantry or basement.
Wherever you choose to store produce, just make sure that it isn’t right next to a heat source; Cooler and darker is best. Light is especially an enemy when it comes to preserving root vegetables. If you become really serious in your quest to preserve produce and you happen to live in a non-tropical climate, I highly recommend researching how to construct your own root cellar.
For most of the produce you’d like to eat fresh, storing it in the refrigerator will be the way to go. The key will be to try and maintain good ventilation, avoid moisture, while also not allowing the items to dry out. When you buy packaged produce in the store, you might notice that the plastic bins usually have ventilation holes. Using containers designed to maintain the humidity balance will go a long way in helping you preserve your CSA or garden grown fruits and veggies. Ventilation is also important for release of ethylene gas (which all ripening produce emits, and consequently advances the ripening process).
If you wish to pre-wash your produce, it is incredibly important to make sure that it is completely dry before you store it in the fridge. Residual moisture on lettuce greens, berries, etc. will set them up for quick deterioration
There is so much more to dehydrated foods than apple chips! You can dehydrate a ton of different produce varieties, store them in an airtight container on a shelf for a long time, and ultimately refresh and turn into recipes much the same way you would use fresh farm produce! Missouri University shared this handy article on how to approach rehydrating your produce. Sure, you can still make your favorite dried fruit snacks and seasoned kale chips, but now you can go wild by refreshing your produce and using it in soups, stews, cobblers, pies and delicious casserole dishes like you find at Clean Foodie approved True Foods in Naples Florida.
Studies have shown that freezing your food does not alter its nutritional value, so you can rest easy when taking advantage of this super simple way to preserve farm produce. If you are freezing a lot of produce from a garden, you may want to consider getting an Energy Star rated chest freezer. They are available in various sizes, depending on your needs, and they usually only rack up around $30 a year in operating costs. Having one of these will help free up space in your fridge-freezer combo.
But whether you’re using a chest freezer or a fridge/freezer combo, you may want to look into getting a good quality vacuum sealer. The good news is that FoodSaver bags can be washed and reused when they haven’t been used to contain raw meat, so you can preserve your produce without creating a ton of plastic waste.
The best way to freeze certain softer items like berries or anything that might burst, is to first freeze it by spreading it out on a tray. Once frozen, transfer to a bag and then vacuum seal it. That will help them keep their integrity through the process. Freezing is great when using pyrex airtight containers and silicone reusable bags. You can always wash and reuse those several times as well. Some foods that don’t freeze well would be celery and cucumber. If you have a lot of celery and carrots and onions, I recommend sauteing them lightly and then freezing in portions that can be used in soups, stews or stuffings. Cucumbers might be best suited for the following two preservation options.
Honestly, I don’t think there is anything that says “I’m on top of my sh*t” quite like a pantry stocked with mason jars of canned produce. Canning can seem super intimidating, but is one of those things that once you have your system down, is pretty straight forward and ends up saving you a ton of prep time in meal preparation down the road.
There are three ways to can or jar produce: water bath technique, atmospheric steam technique/pressure technique. Both water bath and steam techniques are only safe for high acidity foods. These are usually going to be your jams, jellies, pickles, and tomato based foods. There are Canners, that can be used as a water bath or a steam canner. The benefit of using steam like this VictoriO canner instead of a water bath is that it uses less water and energy as well as preserves a bit more crispness in your fruit or veggies (think pickles! yum!)
If you are wanting to can carrots, green beans, peas, or other non-acidic vegetables, you will need to use the Pressure technique using a Pressure Canner/Cooker. In all honesty, you can use the pressure canner on acidic foods as well but you will need to be prepared for a softer texture overall. A great way to utilize canning is by making creative sauces, soups, and spreads from scratch and then having them ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Sauerkraut! Kimchi! Pickles! If you want to know how to preserve produce with tons of flavor, fermentation is the way to go. The tart, delicious flavor of fermented food is always crave-worthy. And so many produce items work great in a fermented form! Of course you have your traditional go-to’s like cabbage and cucumbers, but that’s just the start of it. Carrots, green beans, peppers, radishes, beets, broccoli, and cauliflower are all fantastic when fermented. Every culture has deep fermentation traditions, so if you are feeling a little stumped about ways to ferment certain items, I recommend doing a little Google digging for recipes and fermentation techniques that originate from other parts of the world. Not only will you be broadening your flavor horizons, you’ll also broaden the diversity of your gut flora!
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