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When Bad Things Happen to Good Vegetables: Your food storage tips?

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Some of us may be guilty of buying too much produce or other perishables, for reasons like "great sale price" or "looks awesome" or "I'll use that real soon" or "shopping when hungry", etc. Then, the rotating problem becomes how to keep it close to its peak of freshness.

What are your storage tips? Along with veggies, please include things like opened cheese, cream or wine that partially are unused.

A few of mine, but I'm hoping for others:

Parsley and cilantro: Sling it dry when choosing it at the produce bin, and wrap in several paper towels (which they provide overhead) before bagging.

Chunk cheese: once it's opened from its tight factory wrapper, it can mold in just a few weeks, no matter the expire date. Solution: add a silica gel pack wrapped in paper towel and store in ziploc.

Celery: need some tips here. Also, taters, onions. Also, cabbage that has been halved or quartered.

Your tips are welcomed.

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  1. ahem silca packs next to my cheese? I do not buy pre-packed cheese, unless it is a throwaway cheese for a cheap recipe. And so, I seldom have storage probs. I buy what ai plan to eat and not to worry. If I have a bigger piece, it is a hard cheese and that does well...and if lasts long, ends up in Mac and Cheese.

    If I over buy a perishable veggie, I think, how can I freeze this? Some things I freeze straight out. Some things I puree in a small amount of water and ic-cube tray freeze it. This works great for parsley and such. Take a cube out and toss in the pot. Some veggies I saute first, like mushrooms, so it is also a quick add to a rushed meal.

    My taters and onions stay well in open dark spaces, or in bottom of refrig.
    I learned a LONG time ago, a good deal is not a great deal if you buy too much and throw some away.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Quine

      Air == bad. Even when I buy a small amount of cheese I will stick it in the Foodsaver and suck out the air. Leave a little bit of bag leftover and suck the air out /reseal each time I open.

      Air == bad. Vacuvin wine saver works very very well to keep wine for a few days. Most tests have shown better results than nitrogen purge systems and WAY cheaper. Don't over pump or you such pull out the alcohol & volatiles.

      Air == bad. Whether it is leftover or fresh, meat sealed in a Foodsaver bag is the in-home equivalent of a cyrovac/boil-in-bag. Makes buying meat A LOT more cost effective and cooking large quanties for leftovers no worry.

      Firm vegetable, like onions, beans & cabbage do fine in the vacuum system.

      The units are not very expensive at all, and the bags are a good value as long as you don't waste them on low value foods. There are also similar systems that rely on glass containers too.

    2. 1. Cheese: leave in the ref w/ no packaging. The defrost mechanism simply dries and further "cures" them. Never any spoilage. Even a cheese that eventually gets rock hard will remain good for grating. This obviously doesn't work for soft cheeses.
      2. Spuds and onions: free in a cool, dark, clean place. Needs to be free of roaches.
      3. Halved or quartered cabbage: tightly cover the cut sides with plastic wrap. Will extend life a bit.
      4. Celery in the veg bin in plastic bag with holes. You might store tops and stalks separately.
      5. For greens, less water from washing or whatever is best. Some stuff from the store can benefit from shaking and air drying, or even spinning (actually, I use a dedicated pillow case). Don't crowd th bags of leafy greens in the fridge.

      1. For celery, wrap it in foil. I don't know why but it works. Lasts for so much longer than in a bag.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wendy8869

          YES YES YES this works beautifully.

        2. I was stunned at how well these bags lengthened the life of all my veggies and fruits.

          I have some arugula that is over 3 weeks old that is as perky as the day I bought it.

          You do NOT need to buy them from this website, but this is the best price I found.

          They are reusable and last about 6 months before they don't "hold" as well.

          http://www.reusablebags.com/store/eve...

          1. Extralife disks. I SWEAR by these things: http://www.dennisgreenltd.com/ExtraLi... I used to get them at Wild Oats, although can't find them there now. I've seen them at Whole Foods and most recently at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

            We're in a co-op and I'd have spinach, chard, lettuce, etc. in my veggie drawer for 2 weeks with no degradation of quality.

            Also the trick rworange posted last year about storing things (strawberries) etc, in glass jars is a golden tip. There are a few threads, if you search for "glass jar" on this board, here's one: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/30181...

            7 Replies
            1. re: Chris VR

              I'd have to find the link, but I got that tip about glass jars from a long ago Chowhound post. Here's the digest article.
              http://www.chow.com/digest/799

              It is amazing how much produce this works on. Never thought to try a cut onion, but I'm going to test that out tommorrow.

              And I have to agree with SO many other people ... celery wrapped in aluminum foil will keep weeks and weeks.

              1. re: rworange

                dumb question: does the lid have to be glass as well? Like those jars with a hinged top or do metal and plastic lids work fine?

                1. re: alex8alot

                  How funny -- was just going to post today to remind people that it's strawberry season, so don't forget the glass jar trick. Metal lids are fine -- I'm not sure about plastic. It has something to do with the fact that glass (and metal) are non-porous and don't allow "respiration" of the moisture from the contents.

                  1. re: alex8alot

                    Yeah, what Ruth said. I usually use mason jars with metal lids. However I haven't noticed much difference using a few jars with plastic lids ... maybe because of the small surface area.

                    Just an aside, the cut onion quarter I put about a week ago in a glass jar looks just fine ... and it keeps the onion odor out of the fridge.

                    1. re: rworange

                      thanks. I need to find a use for all the mayonnaise and pickle jars that are cluttering up my kitchen. Now my husband can't accuse me of keeping them around just to make him go bonkers.

                      1. re: alex8alot

                        Yup. I find myself looking at an empty jar and thinking "is that a good size and shape to put fruit in?"

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          you can get glass containers esp made for food storage at IKEA (or $$$ at williams-sonoma)-- i really like them, just don't think of it as $30 for a bunch of tupperware, think of getting rid of all that junk. they are made to stack on top of each other and i swear that just being able to see what's 1/2 of a yellow pepper and what's monday's leftovers right thru the glass means that food doesn't get "forgotten" in the fridge very often! makes prepping easy, fridge more organized, and they have more surface area on the bottom than the sides, so your strawberries, sandwich, lasagna, whatever won't get squashed.

              2. Often when my bananas are going I let them get overripe and then throw them in the freezer. Great for when I feel like making banana bread on a whim.

                2 Replies
                1. re: littlegreenpea

                  Frozen ripe bananas are also great for smoothies. Toss one in a blender with some frozen berries, yogurt and juice, and you don't need any ice.

                  1. re: littlegreenpea

                    Actually, once bananas are ripe, you can put them in the fridge to extend life a little. The skin turns black and ugly, but the fruit is fine.

                  2. Wrap celery in foil and it will last for weeks without getting limp.

                    1. I can't take credit for this but if you wrap celery in alluminum foil it will last for weeks. I use to keep it in a tupperware celery keeper but this works even better and you don't have to keep changing the water. BTW, the honorable Martha Stewart gets credit for this one!

                      1. Sorry, Smitty's wasn't posted when I started typing.

                        1. Onions keep well in pantyhose legs, with a knot tied in between each onion. This way they don't touch each other to form bruises, or gather moisture because of air flow. They keep longer this way, and I haven't figured out another container as useful as the pantyhose. I only do this when I buy a big bag. It's not necessary for just a few, as I use them up quickly.

                          Potatoes I store in the dark, and I never buy a 10# bag unless I'm cooking for an army. They go bad before I get them used.

                          I also find it useful to give many items a fresh cut in a sinkful of water when I'm prepping other things. They appreciate the opportunity to soak up just a little water, I think. This may not appeal, but you can add just a drop or two of bleach to soak water to increase oxygen uptake. I don't find the chlorine very appealing, and don't do it often, but in addition to ice cold water, it does seem to revive things.

                          1. If I end up with too many leafy veggies than I can use, especially lettuces, I throw a paper towel in the bag and it absorbs enough moisture to give them up to a week longer before they get icky. Sometimes I'll just saute a bunch of veggies and toss with pasta or make a soup out of them and freeze that. Otherwise blanching or sauteeing and freezing works.

                            1. I swear by the tupperwear ffridgemates that my coworker sold me on. she had some mixed greens in the fridge at work, went to hawaii, came back and they were still fresh after 3 weeks. i bought a set (sort of expensive, but SO worth it) all organized and stuff.

                              1. store cut herbs in a container of water, like putting flowers in a vase. you can store them together, & bring the whole shebang out when prepping a meal, then return to the fridge. parsley can go for a month, no kidding.

                                all of the other suggestions sound great. i'd like to put in $0.02 for the idea of a veg-soup on whatever day your weekend falls, chop and add all wilty looking veggies, leftover rice, etc. it's nice to kind of make "something from nothing" plus you get homemade soup to take to work.

                                also would like to add that some fruits & veggies give off natural chemicals that speed the ripening of others around them-- in particular it is not smart to ever store apples in the same drawer or fridge as your other fresh produce-- the apples will do fine in a cool cupboard, in a bowl on the counter, or the cellar, after being inspected for bruises (the old one bad apple saw applies). if you keep the apples away everything will last longer. potatoes are another culprit of this but since they aren't stored in the fridge you really only notice that when the potatoes start to go bad a whole bag goes bad REAL fast-- but some people store onion & shallot with their potatoes so be aware if you don't use your stinking lilies quickly.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  I've never had luck storing herbs that way, in a vase. I think the temp of the fridge may be too cold, but it works for everything else in there.

                                  At any rate, what I HAVE had luck with lately is storing herbs in some sort of plastic/tupperwar-y kind of thing with the damp paper towels on top and bottom. that kept basil for a couple of weeks. I've also found it to be a great use for the earthbound plastic containers that I get with their lettuces -- these are a great size for cilantro, mint, etc., and I don't have landfill guilt about buying the plastic containers (and I find the lettuces in those containers last a good long time as well)

                                  1. re: bebevonbernstein

                                    I put my herbs, at least parsley and cilantro in a ziploc bag. They keep for a pretty long time, I find that they keep better this way than in water.

                                    1. re: bebevonbernstein

                                      Yeah, I tried that last week with my parsley and it just didn't seem to work at all. But, I haven't experimented with it a whole lot.

                                      (The berries in a mason jar trick was a god send!)

                                    2. re: soupkitten

                                      I'm going to disagree about keeping apples on the counter top ... though it depends on how long you are keeping them. Apples go mealy if not refrigerated or kept cold. If kept in a separate veggie bin or even a bowl away from other veggies, they are fine.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        haven't tried the seperate bowl thing. interesting. but i'm kind of an apple nut & go thru them quickly, and like to be able to see all of the kinds i have, so i keep them in the cellar when i have too many, bowl on counter when i've got just a few. when i've kept them with other produce in the fridge they do seem to go off faster.

                                        for those wanting to experiment with "herbs in a vase", try putting the vase toward the bottom of the fridge, and change the water every few days, same as you would with a vase of flowers. this method really does work if conditions are right. it is also the only way i've been able to hold amaranth leaves or squash blossoms for more than a day.

                                    3. What would really help on the outset is NOT letting produce depts use those automatic sprinklers on vegetables. It's the worst thing ever. Gross.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Lindalicious

                                        Even though it is ostensibly done in order to keep produce fresh, I agree with you that it is gross (and may not, in reality. keep produce fresh). However, I think that stores have an additional reason for using it.

                                        Wet produce weighs a bit more than dry produce, so for every sale of wet produce, the store is making a slightly larger profit on the wet produce. It might only be a few cents per item, but that does add up in an industry where the margins are just a few cents to begin with.

                                      2. A little thing - but I always make a point of removing the rubber bands that seem to come with scallions, lettuce etc. - I think they promote rotting.

                                        1. Composting has taken the worry/guilt out of overbuying - as soon as it starts to turn, it goes in the bin! I have to say tho prior to that I was a major vegetable abuser.

                                          1. I have always had trouble with salad greens, being single I often had to throw out the wilty gross remnants. One trick that has worked well for me is, when I bring home the greens from the store, I immediately open the container, "fluff" the greens to get some air in, and place a dry paper towel in the middle. If they're in a bag (as opposed to a clamshell), I just twist it loosely rather than sealing it. The greens in the clamshell are often packed in there too tight, so it also helps to take some out as soon as possible.

                                            1. I re-wrap parmesian cheese in a paper towel and then put it in a zip lock bag and it stays relatively soft for months. Halved or quartered cabbage keeps forever in (as nearly airtight as possible) press and seal saran wrap.

                                              1. A big thank-you to whoever recommended freezing whole limes. I just used 2 frozen in a pinch (for juice) and I'm converted. No more having to toss brown old limes.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                  What solved my soggy celery and lettuce problems is the FridgeSmart containers from Tupperware. They really work like a charm. Will keep your celery and lettuce fresh for weeks.

                                                2. Thanks for lots of good tips.

                                                  Prior to this thread, I had no idea that the products that Jennalynn and Chris VR mentioned were available.

                                                  It turns out that those products operate on the principle of absorbing ethylene. I had always thought of ethylene simply as the gas they pump into the produce trucks to ripen the green bananas and tomatoes on the way to the stores. Apparently ethylene operates not only as a ripening hormone but also continues working as a rotting hormone.

                                                  The basic way the products work is to neutralize and then absorb ethylene, preventing it from contributing to the decay of of plant foods in the fridge, where gases recirculate. If you're interested in more of the science, these Mozilla links will open the door:
                                                  http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

                                                  http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

                                                  (keywords: ethylen, zeolite, potassium permanganate, refrigerator

                                                  )

                                                  One manufacturer's FAQ page covers a lot:
                                                  http://www.dennisgreenltd.com/ExtraLi...

                                                  Among several manufacturers of similar products for retail, the most cost effective seems at this point to be E.G.G. (Ethylene Gas Guardian); they offer packet refills of the active stuff once you've bought the plastic container.
                                                  http://www.4theegg.com/index.html

                                                  The Produce Industry uses the same technology, on a more cost efficient scale. I hope to follow up with a few local produce managers in the near future, so see if the crystals are available at a better price.

                                                  rworange's tip on the jars may also have something to do with ethylene not getting to the jarred item.

                                                  Thanks.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: FoodFuser

                                                    Very interesting! Now I am have the urge to buy this EGG product. But is there any review of this product? I wish I can ask someone who has used it before....

                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                      Interesting, thank you for sharing your research.

                                                      Advice on the green Evert-fresh bags described above: I had great success keeping greens and veggies fresh with these, but they were HORRIBLE for potatoes, turning them instantly to a very strange, unnatural mush. They also were very sensitive to moisture, so if my greens weren't dry enough, they would rot. The company recommends throwing in a coffee filter or paper towel, and I found that worked perfectly.

                                                    2. I've decided that those plastic bags the markets have for veggies are a sneaky scam, they actually make veggies go bad more quickly because they trap moisture - particularly bad veggies for plastic bags are mushrooms (I put these in paper bags that I save for this purpose). I really like those pre-bagged green beans and green onions, they're so fragrant and rarely rotten, but I'll at least leave the bag open once I've brought them home.

                                                      In contrast, I read on Chowhound that keeping basil in a closed plastic bag at room temperature is best and I have found this to be true. I don't know if this works for cilantro or similar herbs as I don't often buy them. I freeze rosemary, thyme, and sage, without any special prior treatments.

                                                      I tried the celery-in-aluminum-foil trick but it didn't work.

                                                      I mostly avoid storing salad greens, I go for a same-day strategy, because they go bad so quickly.

                                                      Carrots, ginger, lemons, and limes, last nearly forever in the fridge in my experience.

                                                      I unwrap chesse when I buy it and transfer it to a small plastic bag as aseptically as possible, and I then cut pieces off within the bag without touching the cheese (unless I have guests). This prevents foreign molds from growing pretty well.

                                                      I keep tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, onions, and garlic at room temperature; eventually they'll all sprout so this keep the quantities and turnover under control.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: steinpilz

                                                        Try celery in foil again...seriously, it works so well for me, it amazes me. So you keep ginger unwrapped in the fridge?? I have yet to find a way to store it well, so this does interest me...

                                                        1. re: prunefeet

                                                          Ginger will dry out over a couple of months (and sometimes get blue mold, this seems to be unrelated to how old it is) but I've typically used it by then.

                                                          Lemons or limes will also slowly dry out, it takes several months for this (the peels will first get hard but the juice will still be fine for around two months).

                                                          Don't think that I routinely keep veggies this way, these are just assorted observations!

                                                          Ok, I'll try that celery thing again.