Summer brings in a vibrant array of fruits and vegetables. The season throws in bright yellow mangoes and juicy red watermelons. It also ushers the favourite lady’s fingers as well as a variety of gourds. The pleasure of shopping for fresh produce is diminished by the worry of keeping them fresh for a longer duration. Barring certain regions up north, India’s climate and temperature greatly affect the quality of our fruits & veggies, especially in summer, stealing their moisture and causing them to wither away sooner. So, maintaining their freshness is definitely an uphill task. But did you know that when some fruits and vegetables are stored appropriately, they can last for up to a month!
The first tip from Captain Obvious is ‘buy fresh’. It is pertinent to buy blemish-free, brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables. Once bought, wash them, and store them in cool and dry places. However, green leafy vegetables, herbs, and certain root vegetables should not be washed.
That’s rule number one. For more detailed and helpful tips, let’s see how to treat different varieties.
Storage tips for different fruits & vegetables
Bananas hardly last at room temperature and turn black and mushy. They emit ethylene gas which ripens the fruit faster. The gas also ripens other fruits and vegetables that are kept near it. So, it is best to store bananas separately. The perfect way to control the ripening of bananas is to wrap the step of the fruit with an aluminium foil. This slows down the process of ripening.
The ideal way to make the mandatory potato, onion, and garlic last is to store them at room temperature, and not in the refrigerator. These perishables require a dark space where air circulation is optimum. It is also advisable to store each of them in separate baskets and not put them all together in a single bowl or basket. Heat encourages the sprouts to grow from the potatoes, and roots to grow from onions and garlic, rendering them stale. Potatoes should also be kept away from fruits like bananas.
3. Green leafy vegetables
Leaves like palak, amaranth or any leafy vegetables need extra care. It is prudent to chop off the roots and shake off any dirt or mud that might be sticking to them. After this, spread them on a kitchen towel for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how wet the leaves are. This step dries off the excess moisture and aids in extending the shelf life. One can then discard all the brown leaves and wrap them in a paper bag and refrigerate them in a plastic container.
Apples are meant for colder temperatures. They can be stored in plastic veggie bags in the fridge. As they produce ethylene gas, it is best not to keep them near any other vegetables or fruits as the gas cause them to ripen faster and spoil.
Storing berries like strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry can be tricky. Washing and soaking them in a mixture of water and vinegar increases their longevity. This procedure helps in pulling out any worms that may be residing in them. The berries can be soaked for about a couple of hours and washed in normal water. They can be patted dry and refrigerated in a plastic container lined with absorbent papers.
Tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge. If possible, buy them with the stem. Either way, place them stem-side down in a bowl at room temperature. Cold temperature spoils the taste and texture of the tomatoes.
7. Stone fruits
Stone fruits like mangoes, plums, and peaches should be left at room temperature to ripen and then shifted to the fridge. Mangoes should be soaked in water for at least an hour before consumption. There are two reasons for doing so: 1) any sprayed chemicals are washed off, and 2) It stops the ripening process and cools off the heat. While storing the fruits in the refrigerator it is best not to store them near apples.
Herbs like coriander, mint, parsley and dill have a short shelf life. But they can be preserved for a longer time through this method. One can place their stem in a glass of water, as though in a flower pot. The water can be changed frequently to maintain the freshness of the herb. Ensure the water is not warm but at room temperature or slightly cool.
9. Citrus fruits
The rule of thumb rule while storing fruits and vegetables is knowing how they react to moisture. While some thrive in moist climates, others decay. On one hand, zip lock bags help retain moisture, keeping perishables fresh; and on the other, absorbent papers prevent moisture buildup and quicker decay.