Spring is here and summer isn’t far behind, and we can almost taste the fresh, local produce coming our way! From juicy strawberries to crisp lettuce, the taste of that fresh produce is hard to beat.
With the warmer weather comes the desire for cooler, more fresh meal ideas that include healthy produce.
Sometimes produce can be expensive, but buying sweet local corn or freshly picked cherry tomatoes doesn’t have to break your grocery budget.
All you need to do is make sure you get the right information before you head out to the farmers’ market or the grocery store.
We want to help you get the most out of your produce. It’s important to know how to pick items out and how to store them to make sure your money goes as far as it can.
Most of us know to check for bruises, signs of environmental damage, and holes when we shop for produce. But there some items that need specific attention to ensure we get the best items.
For example, bananas don’t last very long. If you don’t think you’re going to eat those bananas within the next day or two, make sure you buy unripened bananas to give yourself more time.
Buy local when you can. This produce hasn’t travelled as far, and will stay fresh longer because it likely reached the store faster than anything that was imported.
For a complete list of fruits and what you should check out for each one, read this.
Other foods that shouldn’t go in the fridge are tropical fruits, tomatoes, uncut melons, and avocado. If these items are put in the fridge, they deteriorate rapidly and lose their chemical composure, which means you’re losing out on taste.
Store potatoes and onions in the dark, because the more exposed to light they get, the more alkaloids will form, and make sure they are at room temperature. If potatoes get too cold, the starch begins to convert to sugar and their taste is altered to become more sweet.
For root veggies, like carrots and beets, your best bet is to cut off the green tops before you put them in the fridge. If they stay attached, they’ll draw more nourishment from there and ripen faster.
Lastly, don’t wash your produce until right before you eat it, and avoid using plastic bags for storage. Paper and cellophane are better for allowing the fruit to breathe.
Some fruits and veggies can be frozen, and it’s a good idea to do so if you’re not going to eat them right away. This is also a great idea if you spot a deal or sale on your favourite fruits at the grocery store.
The majority of fruit can be frozen. If you want, you can prepare fruits that brown, like apples or peaches, with a vitamin C solution first.
Not all veggies should be frozen, but you can freeze low-acid veggies, like peas, carrots, or corn.
If you are going to freeze some of your veggies, blanche them first so they hold up their texture and flavor. Here’s a guide to blanching to help you get started.
It also helps to portion your produce before you freeze it. This way, you can take out only what you need when the time comes.
Beware of freezer burn… that dreaded situation that makes your frozen foods become a victim to icy buildup and dryness.
We have good news! If you’ve decided to freeze some of your produce, there are some ways you can protect your items from developing freezer burn.
Make sure everything is packed in airtight containers and you’ve let all of the excess air out before you put it in the freezer.
For more protection, make sure you cook veggies or fruit as soon as you take them out of the freezer. Don’t let anything thaw for too long because it’ll begin to lose its texture as it thaws. Additionally, make sure you don’t re-freeze anything that’s already thawed.
Canning your produce is the perfect way to save some of that fresh spring and summer produce for the winter. This will help you save money during those colder months when those seasonal produce items become more expensive and less local.
It’s also a great idea if you don’t have much freezer space, because canned goods are stored at room temperature.
There’s a little bit of science that goes into canning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be happy to enjoy that yummy produce when the snow hits later on in the year.
Here is a beginner’s guide to home canning, with everything you’ll need to know before you start your project.
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