7 Ways to Make Fresh Produce Last Longer

Salad greens: Wash in several changes of lightly salted cool water (fill sink with water, add greens, and slosh gently up and down so dirt and grit sink to the bottom). Spin greens dry in a salad spinner, then layer with paper toweling in large plastic zipper bags, keeping different types of greens separate, and refrigerate. Maximum storage time is 1 week.

Vegetables (asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, etc.): Do not wash before refrigerating. If vegetables seem unusually wet (often the case with supermarkets automatically spritzing produce bins), pat dry on paper toweling, then layer in plastic bags with dry paper toweling. Fold tops of bags over and store in refrigerator crisper drawers. Maximum storage time is 7 to 10 days.

Herbs: The best way to handle parsley and tender-leafed herbs (basil, chervil, cilantro, dill, tarragon, etc.) is to unband the bunched herb, separate the sprigs, and discard any that have broken stems or a yellowing or going soft. Do not wash herbs. With a sharp knife, slice off base of each stem slightly on the bias just as you would if readying roses for a vase. Fill a large glass or small jar with cool water three-fourths of the way, then stand herb springs in jar just as if you were arranging flowers. Pop a soft plastic bag upside-down -- loosely -- over bouquet of herbs, do not secure around bottom of jar, and set in refrigerator. Maximum storage time is 10 days to 2 weeks for parsley, 3 to 5 days for basil (it tends to blacken as moisture accumulates), 7 to 10 days for other herbs.

Fresh ginger: Slip whole, unpeeled ginger into plastic zipper bag, press out air, seal, and store on refrigerator door shelf where plainly visible. When ready to use, whack off the amount you need (a 1-inch cube peeled and minced = about 1 tablespoon). Maximum storage time is about 1 month, but check ginger from time to time and if molding, softening, or shriveling, discard.

Eggs: Leave fresh eggs in original carton and store in coldest part of refrigerator, not in door "egg-keeper." Store hard-cooked eggs unpeeled in plastic storage container with tight-fitting lid. Also label eggs "hard-cooked." Maximum storage time for hard-cooked eggs is 7 days if eggs were very fresh, 3 to 5 if not.

Milk: Transfer to glass bottle; it will last nearly twice as long as that kept in paper or plastic cartons. Glass, moreover, is inert and imparts no off flavors to milk.

Parmigiano-Reggiano: Chunk a large wedge of cheese, then grate in food processor. Stored in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator, it keeps for weeks. Wrap wedges or blocks of Parmigiano-Reggiano in foil or plastic food wrap, pop into plastic zipper bags, and store in the "meat-keeper" drawer of the refrigerator. Maximum storage time is several weeks for grated cheese, several months for properly wrapped wedges.


From Dinners in a Dish or a Dash by Jean Anderson. Copyright 2000. New York: William Morrow.

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