The Art of Refrigeration
I previously provided information about why it was important to eat your vegetables and fruits. So now we are going to look at how to keep vegetables and fruits in the refrigerator, based on my experience. How often do you throw away decaying produce from the refrigerator? I can happily say that I rarely do and I believe it is because I am vigilant in how I keep my produce. I will share with you some of my techniques. But first I want to share with you one of my previous experiences.
Not too long ago when I was at Safeway the cashier noticed that I was purchasing three avocados and it sparked a conversation:
Cashier: “Every time I buy avocados they just go bad! So I do not buy them anymore.”
Me: Well, do you keep them in the refrigerator?
Me: At what stage do you buy them? Do you buy them when they are ripe?
Cashier: Yes, I do.
Me: I think that is your problem, I buy one that is really hard, not so hard and one that is ripe.
Cashier: Oh, okay, I see.
Me. You have to make sure to remember to eat them as well. I believe that is a problem, people forget to eat them.
Cashier: Okay I will try that.
I have not seen her since our conversation, I do not shop at Safeway that often. But if I do, I will ask her if she took up purchasing avocados again and if anything has changed?
So back to the refrigeration of produce. I would have to say that there are three key things to think about when you are considering the refrigeration of produce: aeration, temperature and if the produce is alive.
We will tackle aeration first. I am assuming that inside a refrigerator, air is constantly moving; this is a good thing as well as bad thing. Some vegetables and fruits need to be sort of shielded from this moving air because that constant moving air dries them out (again my assumption). It is sort of similar to blow drying your hair only using the cold air option on the blow-dryer, even thought the air is cold, if you wait long enough your hair will dry.
So depending on the structure of the produce, you will have to keep specific produce in a paper bag. On that note, I cannot think of a specific type of produce that I would recommend to keep in a plastic bag. The reason for this is because the plastic bag drastically minimizes air flow which means that moisture given off by produce gets trapped in the bag. Compared to keeping produce in a paper bag which allows air flow but on a minimal level. The trapping of moisture is bad because mold which is similar to almost everything else on this planet needs water to survive. Keeping produce in a plastic bag will provide mold with adequate food as well as water. In this situation, this is good for them and bad for us.
The outer layer of your produce will give you a hint, on how to keep it. There are a handful of types of vegetables and fruits that you need to keep in their own paper bag. This includes berries (blackberries, strawberries, boysenberries, raspberries, etc) and mushrooms (shiitake, portobello, white button, maitake, brown button, oyster, etc). According to WiseGeek, putting a damp paper towel with the produce mentioned above will help last even longer. I personally do not put a paper towel but you are more than welcome to.
You will also find produce that you have to keep in a paper bag but you do not have to keep them separate. What I do for this category is that I put a shopping bag (paper) from Safeway, Costco, Raleys, etc, in the bottom pull out drawer of my refrigerator and then I put the produce in the bag. I believe that this is a good method, because it helps the produce from drying out and it is a easy clean up, just take out the bag when appropriate. Produce in this section include: broccoli, carrots, celery, romaine lettuce, radicchio, red leaf, green leaf, endive, iceberg lettuce, butter lettuce, eggplant, and cauliflower.
On the other end of the aeration spectrum is produce that do not have to be kept in a paper bag at all. We can make an educated guess and say that the reason why you do not have to do anything special to produce in this category is because they have a tough outer layer. The vegetables and fruits included in this section are: oranges, bananas, plantains, lemons, squash, pineapple, cucumber (watch these closely), melons, and beets. There are other vegetables that are sort of vigor, if I can use that word, for example, cabbage, beets, ginger, tomatoes, artichoke, turnips, radishes, apples, bell peppers, grapes, corn, radishes, garlic and onions. I personally have a decent size plastic tupperware that I keep in my refrigerator for holding most of the produce in this section.
Just a quick note, above I had mentioned tomatoes, but it is important to point out that if you do utilize the ‘tupperware method,’ do not let the tomatoes sit under other produce. Because if they are at the bottom, the weight of the other vegetables and fruits will cause bruising which speeds up the decaying process.
Next we are going to look at temperature, which is sort easy; if you are someone who has a refrigerator. This is obvious because you would just set the dial on your refrigerator at an ideal temperature and let it do its thing. But some vegetables and fruits do not need to be refrigerated, these are mostly roots and some other types of produce: potatoes, onions*, garlic*, ginger*, lemons*, grapes*, apples* and avocados*.
Last and but not least we have the, ‘living produce.’ Believe it or not some of the produce that you buy is still alive. The different types of produce that I am talking about here are lettuces, produce in the Apiaceae family, and herbs. The produce in this category can be put in the refrigerator while sitting in a jar/cup of water. The plants will naturally begin to take in the water, which will allow them to last 100 times longer (exaggeration). But really you will be surprised of the difference. I personally put, spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, sage, thyme, etc. This is such a cool method because all you have to do is grab your jar (I recycle old jam jars, peanut butter jars, sauce jars, mason jars, etc) of produce pick how much of the plant you want and put it back. With this method you should pick off leaves at the bottom of the plant as best as possible. So that they do not sit in the water (will increase rate of decay) and you should change the water maybe once a week.
* Even though it is not necessary to refrigerate; I do. The potato only after it is cut.