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Keeping It Fresh

By Mark Mulcahy

If you are like most Americans, your shopping patterns have changed drastically in the past several weeks. More people are buying fresh produce to stay healthy and for good reason, as a diet with lots of fresh Melissa’s organic produce is a great way to keep your immune systems strong in these uncertain times.

With all that fresh produce buying, that means more produce management. If you are like many of us, you have probably found yellowing broccoli or wilted lettuce in your refrigerator and a too ripe banana or a moldy orange in your fruit bowl. And of course, in the past some of us didn’t give it a whole lot of thought once it’s put in the compost bin. But times have changed, and we need to make every dollar count in these economic times.

So, what’s the solution?

First off, knowing how to store produce can make a huge difference in the shelf life.

For longer life, keep your produce whole. As soon as you start pulling fruits and vegetables apart (this can be as little as pulling a stem off an apple) you've broken cells, and microorganisms start to grow.

Organic Mango

Secondly, it’s important to keep fruits and veggies at the right temperature.
Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Produce such as Melissa’s organic mangoes, avocados, tomatoes, nectarines and peaches fall into this category. Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies should be stored on the counter, not in the refrigerator. Once they've ripened, you can put them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to help them last. When you’re ready to eat them, return them to room temperature first to ensure the best flavor. A common rule is never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. They are best kept in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last for up to a month or more. But keep them separated so their flavors and smells don't migrate.

Organic Russet Potatoes

There is an exception to this with organic potatoes in the early spring when we still may be eating last year’s storage potatoes. If that’s the case and the new crop has not come in yet, it is best to store them in the fridge to keep them from sprouting as organic potatoes are not allowed to have sprout inhibitors applied in post-harvest as can conventional potatoes.

Another important step in keeping things fresh is understanding ethylene gas. Nearly all fruits emit some ethylene gas. What’s ethylene gas? It’s a gas that speeds ripening and can lead to premature spoilage. You won’t see it or smell it, but it is being released.

If your produce breaks down in just a few days, chances are you are storing fruits and vegetables incorrectly. As a rule, it’s best to keep them separated.

Here are some tips on monitoring your ethylene exposure:

Organic Apples

Refrigerate these gas releasers:
Organic Apples, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Figs and Honeydew melon as the cold will not hurt them.

Organic Avocados
Don’t Refrigerate these gas releasers:
Organic Avocados, Bananas, (unripe) Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums or Tomatoes, as these are cold sensitive.

Organic Bananas

Keep these away from all gas releasers: Organic Bananas, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash and Sweet potatoes.

It’s best to keep your refrigerated fruits and vegetables in separate areas to eliminate exposure to ethylene.

As you can see, paying attention to how you store your produce and monitoring the ripeness can have positive results. Though it may be a little more effort it will be worth your time.

Lastly have an eating plan; Eat your more perishable items first and save your heartier items for later in the week. Or better yet plan some meals around the produce you buy. Every little step you take can give you more produce to enjoy and keep more money in your wallet. Be well, be kind, and let’s take a moment to reflect on how blessed we are to have May’s bounty of Melissa’s organic produce to choose from for ourselves and our families.
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