Most CSA members know that joy of getting some amazing looking produce to only be sorely disappointed when it goes floppy or moldy before you can use it. Part of this equation is that we often receive veggies at their peak flavor and quality, which also means that they need to be used right away. The other part of this equation is that produce needs to be stored correctly to maintain its integrity. Properly storing veggies will be a key component to making CSA menu planning work. Here are some tips to get you started and some additional resources (I can’t be the only one who has Googled how to store beets).
- Most, although not all, veggies do better in the fridge and in some kind of container or bag. If it is a delicate green (such as lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, etc.), throw a paper towel in the plastic bag or container to soak up extra moisture. The paper towel can be replaced as needed.
- If it’s a root vegetable and you want to use the attached greens, remove the greens right away and store separately. How you treat greens to keep them fresh is not the same as how you treat the root part of the vegetable, so best to separate. I find that greens do well in a ziplock bag with a paper towel, left partially open, in the fridge. Root veggies do well in a plastic container with lid (or in your produce drawer, depending on the vegetable).
- Don’t wash any of the veggies before you put them away. Your farm likely did a good first wash. You’ll just want to wash them well again right before use. Water can be the real enemy to keeping some veggies fresh and for those that need it, it’ll all about moderation and certain exposure to water (see Tip #4 about herbs).
- Herbs like cilantro, parsley, etc. will last MUCH longer if you use an herb saver (I have this one) or make your own. All you’ll need is a recycled glass jar (or glass) and a plastic bag. Remove any wilted or sub-par parts of the herb bunch. Then put a little water in the jar (not too much, as you won’t want the water to touch the leaves, just the stems). Add the herbs to the jar, adjusting the water if needed. Top with the plastic bag, wrapping it around the jar to keep it secure. And that’s it! Your cilantro will last exponentially longer and as we always need cilantro in our household, this has been a godsend.
- Get prepared for the CSA season and have an assortment of containers. While I’m not usually a big plastic fan, plastic containers do work well for veggies. Just don’t microwave or put hot food in them to avoid leaching issues. I’ve got some nesting Tupperware bowls with lids that are fantastic for spinach, root veggies, and many other items that show up in our CSA box.
- Some things should be used as soon as possible. Ripe tomatoes are one of these items as is basil. In the case of basil, you can set it on the counter, with just the stems sitting in a container of water, but it’ll still do best if you use or preserve it right away (I like to make pesto or just freeze the leaves whole in a freezer bag, to break apart and add to soups in the dead of winter).
- Stumped as to how you should store something? Check out this resource or Google it.
What’s your favorite tip on storing vegetables? Please share it below in the comments.