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Donít Spoil Your Dinner Ė How to Keep Fresh Produce Fresh

Have you ever tossed away fruits and vegetables that you purchased only a few days before? Or wondered why some of your produce will last a week or sometimes much longer when others perish so very quickly? Odds are, most of us have. The average family throws away about 25% of their fresh produce, which costs them about $750 a year (reported by the University of Arizona and the US Department of Agriculture).

Now, you might think that buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables is the solution to this problem. Of course canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are good to have on hand in a pinch, but nothing beat the flavor and nutrition of eating fresh foods. Instead, practice a small amount of planning with your produce, and make sure you are storing your fruits and veges properly, and you can eat healthy, delicious, and fresh produce all week long, even with a single trip to the store!

First of all, donít let your produce get warm. Shop for produce last, and go directly home with it. The warmer it gets, the faster it respires, the faster it ripens, and the sooner it eventually rots.

You can also choose less ripe fruit, which will mean it lasts longer at home. Of course if youíre going to eat it soon, look for the ripest produce. You can often buy very ripe fruits and vegetables at a discount from your grocer, which can save you money if you plan to eat them or cook them immediately. Look at the back of the produce section or ask. Farmers at the farmerís market will also be able to advise you which produce is ready to eat, and which needs a little more time.

These fruits and vegetables will last a week or less:

Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Bananas
Basil
Broccoli
Cherries
Corn
Dill
Green beans
Mushrooms
Mustard greens
Strawberries
Watercress

These will last about a week:

Arugula
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Grapes
Lettuce
Lime
Mesclun
Pineapple
Zucchini


These will last up to a couple weeks if stored properly:

Apricots
Bell peppers
Blueberries
Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower
Grapefruit
Leeks
Lemons
Oranges
Oregano
Peaches
Pears
Plums
Spinach
Tomatoes
Watermelon

These will last for several months, but are best within about one month:

Apples
Beets
Cabbage
Carrots
Celery
Garlic
Onions
Potatoes
Winter squash

The fresher your produce is when you buy will mean it lasts longer at home as well. Thatís why a farmerís market or CSA is a great bet for making your produce last Ė it is picked fresh the day you buy it, versus produce in the store which may have been picked green before traveling by truck or ship for days or weeks before you ever set eyes upon it.

You can also use special discs or produce bags that absorb ethylene, the ripening gas. This can stop produce from ripening so quickly because when they detect ethylene they begin to produce more of it. Of course ethylene can also be used to help produce ripen when you are eager to eat it. The old banana in a bag trick works because bananas produce a lot of ethylene and will trigger whatever is in the bag with them to ripen and begin producing their own ethylene.

Some high ethylene producing fruits should be refrigerated, whiles others shouldnít. Refrigerate these: Apples, Cantaloupe, Figs, and Honeydew. Donít refrigerate these: Avocados, Bananas, Nectarines, Peaches, Tomatoes, and Bell Peppers.

And some produce doesnít make much ethylene but is very sensitive to it. Keep these away from the gas producers above: Bananas, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon


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