Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When good fruit goes bad...call in the pros.

I work along side people that know fresh food. They make it. They grow it ...and they know how to take care of it to make it last longer. I asked my neighbors at our local farmer's market their professional tips on how to store the fresh produce and products we buy from them. Here are their suggestions:

For fresh bread (with no preservatives) - from Dawn at The Bread Gallery (http://www.breadgallery.org/)
-If you eat the whole loaf the day you buy it then keeping it on the counter in it's paper bag is fine.
-If you are going to eat just part of it and want it fresh for the next time: keep the bread in it's paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel, then put it in a tupperware container or plastic bag and freeze it, doing your best to not let the bread have direct contact with plastic. You can also pre-cut the loaf into slices before you freeze it, separating each slice in it's own baggie or wrap them in parchment, then freeze. Always cut the bread from the side and not the top.
-The more humid the weather, the longer bread will last on the counter. The more dry (think "Santa Ana" winds), the quicker it will dry out.

Fresh eggs, carrots, beets, leafy greens, and fruits - from Cathy at Ray's Ranch (http://www.raysranch.com/)
Eggs- if they are washed (which most are), then refrigerate them for up to 6-8 weeks (sometimes 10 in the winter). If they are "dirty" and haven't been washed in water, then you don't have to keep them in the fridge but keep an eye on warm weather (better to throw them in the fridge when things heat up).
Carrots & Beets - to keep them crisp and fresh place them in a container with fresh water in the fridge. Change the water every few days.
Leafy greens (kale, lettuce, etc.) - for ultimate freshness, keep the lower stems immersed in water - like you would for flowers and keep them in the fridge. Change the water when it gets dirty.
Fruits - when you buy fruit keep them separated from each other. When you pile them on top of one another the fruits will mold and bruise where they touch. Either keep them separated or place a paper towel between each piece.

Apricots, peaches, and nectarines - from Sean at SunnyCal Farms
Let these fruits ripen outside the fridge until they have a slight "give" when you squeeze them. Then store them in the fridge after that, or else they will ripen too quickly and go bad after a few days.

Freezing foods in glass jars - from ...me (The Healthy Cowboy Kitchen)
If you have any left-over chili, beef stock, spaghetti sauce, etc. in a glass jar don't be afraid to freeze it. As long as you remove an inch or two from the top of the jar to allow for expansion, the food should freeze safely in glass.

Come check out these vendors and more at our farmer's market in Irvine (Historic Park) on Tuesday mornings from 9am-1pm. Can't make it? Find other markets around Orange County here (certified only) and here (all of them).

Have more questions about farmer's market produce and products? Email me (healthycowboykitchen@gmail.com) and I'll find out the answers from our experts.

Interested in knowing if those "produce life-extending" bags REALLY work? Check out this product review article I wrote for my friend, Sharon, (Cupcakes and Cutlery) that had very interesting results.