Managing Your Pantry

Knowing how to store your food is important. Not only do you want to prevent food from spoiling, but you also want to keep it at its peak nutritional value. Green bags are key here as they keep greens crisp, vitamin loss to a minimum and are reusable. Below are some tips for storing produce staples.

Let me know if I left out any of your produce favorites and I’ll give you some pointers!

Basic Steps

  • Use green bags for your produce.  Put in dry produce in the bag, squeeze out any excess air and then seal the bags tightly.
  • Store nuts and seeds in a cool, dark place.  The fridge and freezer are excellent options.
  • Ripen your fruit before eating so that it is at the peak of sweetness.  These ripen at home on the counter: pepper, banana, kiwi,
    tomato, avocado, limes, stone fruit, mango, pear, and papaya.
  • Have staple vegetables always on hand:  sprouts, kale, spinach, parsley, bell pepper, lemon, smoothie fruits and avocados.

 

Specific food handling suggestions

    • Apples/Oranges/Plums/Papayas/Mangoes/Peaches/Nectarine and most sweet fruits: If eating them within a few days, place in a fruit bowl within easy reach, otherwise store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week or two.Apples will last a long time in the fridge.
    • Avocados: Purchase the hard green ones. Let ripen on the counter or in a paper bag for four to seven days. Ripe avocados should yield slightly to gentle pressure, but have firmness to them. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for up to a week if they have not been sliced open.
    • Bananas: Ripen on the counter until they have freckles.  Place in the fridge or freezer (without skin) before they develop bruises.  Frozen bananas will keep for about two months.

 

  • Basil: When purchasing look for vibrant green leaves with no signs of decay.  Fresh basil should be slightly rinsed and store in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel for up to one week.  Or you can place in a jar of water like you would cut flowers and leave out on the counter. A green bag will lengthen the life of leaves in the fridge.  Basil may also be frozen, whole or chopped, in airtight containers.  Frozen basil is good for three months.
  • Berries: Remove any soft, bruised or overripe berries. Remove from grocery store container and store in a covered container (except blackberries which should be left uncovered) in the refrigerator. Wash just before using. Berries only last 2-3 days so eat them up!
  • Coconuts: Mature coconuts are available in most grocery stores, whereas young coconuts are more often seen in specialty grocery stores or in Asian markets.  Mature coconuts should be stored in dry, cool area if you purchase them whole and plan to crack open yourself.  Once opened, the meat should be refrigerated and used within 7-10 days.  Store young coconuts in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Coconut water and meat freeze very well.  Freeze the coconut meat in ziplock bags.  The coconut water can be kept in a plastic jar.
  • Cucumbers: Store cucumbers in the refrigerator, where they will keep for several days.   If you do not us an entire cucumber, wrap the remainder in a green bag and use within one to two days.  Cucumbers left out at room temp for too long will cause them to wilt and become limp.
  • Cut-up fruits and vegetables: Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  • Dried fruit (raisins, dates, etc.): Unopened packages can be kept in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard. Once opened, it is best store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Avoid purchasing dates with crystallized sugar on their surface or an off smell.  That signals an older product and fermentation.  For the longest shelf life, place soft and semi-soft varieties in an airtight container to protect them from the odors of other foods, which they will quickly absorb.  They will keep in the refrigerator for up to eight months.  At room temperature, they will remain fresh for one month or more.
  • Eggplant: Choose ones that are firm and heavy for their size and free of discoloration, scars, or bruises.  They are actually very perishable, being sensitive to both heat and cold.  Store the whole plant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a few days.  If you cut it before you store it, it will decay quickly.  Once cooked, eggplant can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.
  • Garlic: For best flavor and maximum health benefits, buy fresh garlic that is plump, with unbroken skin.  Store at room temperature in a cool, dark place allowing for air circulation such as a bowl in the cupboard or a clay garlic keeper: on the counter for up to two weeks.  Note: Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life, to just a few days.
  • Grapes: They do not ripen after harvesting, so look for grapes that are well colored, plump, firmly attached to the stem, and wrinkle free.  Store in the refrigerator for several days. Wash just before using.Herbs (except for Basil): Snip off the ends, place in a jar of water, cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Kiwi: If they are very firm, they can be left to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature away from exposure to sunlight and heat. Ripe kiwifruit can be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator away from other fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene gas, which causes kiwifruit to become overripe quickly.
  • Lettuce: Clean and dry first. Store in a green bag, or wrap in paper towels or a cotton towel and store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  Crisphead and romaine lettuce will keep for five to seven days, butterhead and loose-leaf lettuce for two to three days.
  • Onions: Store at room temperature, away from bright light, and in an area that is well ventilated (i.e. wire hanging basket or perforated bowl with a raised base).  Those that are more pungent in flavor, such as yellow onions, will keep longer than those with a sweeter taste, such as white onions.  Green onions should be stored in a green bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about a week.  All onions should be stored away from potatoes, as they will absorb their moisture and ethylene gas, causing them to spoil quicker. Once cut, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Mushrooms: Place in a loosely closed brown paper bag.  To keep them from drying out prematurely, you can wrap the mushrooms in a slightly damp cloth or place on a glass dish and then cover with a moistened cloth.  These methods will retain freshness for several days. Prepacked mushrooms can be store in the refrigerator for up to one week in their original container.
  • Parsley: Sprinkle with water then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Or snip off the ends, place them in a jar or water, cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Peppers: Bell peppers should be heavy for their size ad firm enough that they gently yield to slight pressure.  Unwashed bell peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for up to one week.
  • Sprouts: If you buy sprouts in the store, rinse them once you get home – to freshen them up. Make sure you store them dry. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
  • Tomatoes: Store on the countertop or in a bowl for up to one week, depending upon how ripe they were when purchased. Do not refrigerate. When tomatoes start to go “bad” slice them up, dehydrate them, then freeze for future use.
  • Zucchini: Look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care, as even small punctures lead to decay.  Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about seven days. Do not wash until ready to use.

Also, for a look inside a raw foodist’s fridge, see my video here!

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