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Making the Most of Melissa’s Produce

By Mark Mulcahy
Image of Organic Oranges
I have a fruit bowl dance with my daughter at home. I walk by the fruit bowl each morning and take out the pear or orange that is ready to eat, so I can slow down the ripening process - and then I come back a couple hours later, and it's back in the bowl. This got me to thinking about all of the households across the country who have a similar dance with their produce...or even worse, maybe there is no produce dance at all.

Have you ever found yellowing broccoli or wilted lettuce in your refrigerator? Or how about a too-ripe banana or a moldy orange in your fruit bowl? Unfortunately most of us would probably answer yes, and many of us may not give it much thought once it’s put in the garbage or compost bin - but perhaps we should.

According to a 2012 NRDC study, families tossed out an average of 40% of their food per year - worth about $165 billion, which has an annual cost of $2,275 for the average family of four. Now that was two years ago; just think about how much is being tossed out today, with our busier lives and with national surveys showing that folks are buying more fresh fruits and vegetables on every trip to the store.

So what’s the solution? First, knowing how to store your Melissa's produce can make a huge difference in its shelf life. For longer life, keep your produce whole - breaking the surface of your produce can allow micro-organisms to start to grow and that starts the downward spiral. Second, 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. Fruits and veggies like this should be stored on the counter, not in the refrigerator. Once they're ripened, however, 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 to ensure the best flavor. A common rule is to never refrigerate Melissa’s organic potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. They are best kept in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more - but keep them separated so their flavors and smells don't migrate. There is an exception to this with organic potatoes in the late winter or early spring, when we are eating potatoes that have been in storage. During this time it is best to store them in the fridge to keep them from sprouting.

Another important step in keeping things fresh is in understanding ethylene gas. Nearly all fruits emit some ethylene gas. Ethylene gas speeds ripening and can lead to premature spoilage. You won’t see 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.
Image of Organic Apples
Refrigerate these gas releasers: the cold will not hurt them
Apples, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Figs, Honeydew Melon.
Image of Organic Avocados
Don't refrigerate these gas releasers: these are cold-sensitive
Avocados, Bananas (unripe), Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes.
Image of Organic Bananas
Keep these away from all gas releasers
Bananas (ripe), Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash and Sweet Potatoes.

It’s also 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 Melissa's produce items first and save your heartier items for later in the week. Better yet, plan some meals around the produce you buy. Every little step you take can give you more Melissa's Organic Produce to enjoy and keep more money in your wallet as well.
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