Cooktop Cove: You're probably storing these foods wrong, and it may be costing you money
We've all been there: You go to the farmers market or the grocery store and stock up on all those beautifully colored fruits and vegetables. You've bought so much, though, that you can't possibly eat it all within the next day or two — and on that third day, you open your fridge up to wilted, moldy produce. It's frustrating. Not only can you now not eat all that nutritious and delicious food you were looking forward to, but you've also wasted a ton of money.
So what are you to do? Well, it might be too late for all the wasted food in your fridge, but you can prevent it from happening again. Most likely, that food spoiled not because it was bad in the first place, but because you hadn't stored it properly. These storage tips can help ensure that, the next time you open your fridge, you're just as excited as you were when you bought all those goodies. Read on, and start storing those fruits and vegetables properly so you can enjoy them for much longer.
Bananas are notorious for spoiling just days after they've been purchased, and sometimes, they don't even have that long before going bad. The answer: Wrap the stems in plastic wrap as soon as you bring bananas home. Some even suggest separating the bananas first so that each banana can have its stem wrapped. When bananas are removed from the tree, they immediately begin to emit gases that ripen them, but those same gases cause them to brown, too. Wrapping the stems contains the gases, so the bananas stay fresh for longer.
2. Salad mixes
Salad mixes are convenient, but they wilt and turn slimy very quickly. Once one leaf goes, it takes no time at all to spread to the others. Here's how to keep it from happening.
When you get that salad mix home, wash it all in a salad spinner and then spin rapidly to get rid of all the moisture. After you dry it to the best of your ability, place the entire mix in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Lastly, tuck one folded paper towel inside each side of the bag. The paper towel will absorb the moisture that causes salad mix to go bad so quickly. If the paper towel starts to get wet, just replace it.
Bonus tip: Buy all the ingredients separately, chop them up, and store them the exact same way. Just don't include tomatoes; their acid will quickly turn your salad brown and slimy.
Just as moisture is an enemy of salad, it's also an enemy of fresh berries. Prevent berries from turning to mush by placing them on paper towels in an open container in the fridge. Giving the berries a quick rinse beforehand will get rid of any mold spores that might be forming. An open container is important here: It allows air to circulate, also preventing mold from forming.
Use this tip only on firm berries such as strawberries and blackberries. Soft varieties such as raspberries should be washed only just before eating, because they already contain a lot of moisture, and it's impossible to get it all out before they turn.
Store grapes in a similar way as berries and for the same reasons. Moisture can do a lot of damage to grapes in a very short time, and that mesh bag you buy them in does little to help. Instead, wash the grapes to get rid of mold spores and bacteria, and then dry them as best you can in a salad spinner (or with paper towels). When they are dry, place a fresh paper towel along the bottom of an open container, place the grapes on top, and store them in the fridge. The paper towel will absorb the moisture, and the open container will let the air circulate.
Celery is a firm vegetable, you might not expect it to turn bad quickly. Although it might not rot in your fridge, it will get very soft and limp. A little prep can help prevent this.
First, trim the tops and bottoms, and discard them (or put them in your freezer to use for stock later; stock doesn't care if celery is limp.) Wash the celery thoroughly and then pat it dry. Place a paper towel under cold water very briefly (just a few seconds). Wring out the excess moisture and lay the paper towel flat on your counter. Place your celery in the middle and wrap it up. Then, use a large piece of aluminum foil to wrap the paper towel and celery together. The moist paper towel will keep the celery fresh, while the aluminum foil will allow the ethylene gas — the same gas bananas emit — to escape. Don't use a plastic or glass container; it will only trap those gases and keep them attacking the celery, making it go limp even faster.
Mushrooms are a great addition to just about any dish, but that doesn't mean you have to eat them with every meal immediately after bringing them home. If you keep them in their original container, they'll spoil quickly, but there's a way to get around that.
Start by not washing the mushrooms until you absolutely need them. Mushrooms are little sponges that absorb any liquid they come in contact with. If you wash them too soon, the mushrooms will sit in all that water when you put them back in the fridge. Instead, place them in a brown paper bag, which will help keep moisture at bay and your mushrooms fresher much longer. When it's time to sauté them or add them to a salad, don't plunge them under water. Again, they're sponges, and you'll get rubbery, watery mushrooms. Instead, wipe dirt off with a damp paper towel.
7. Fresh herbs
Who doesn't love adding fresh herbs to salads and other dishes? They can add so much flavor, but only if you use them immediately, right? Wrong! There are a couple of ways to keep herbs fresh.
One is to fill a vase or other long glass or plastic container about halfway with fresh water. Trim the ends of the herbs, just as you would fresh flowers, and place them in the water. Then put the entire thing into the fridge. This works best for sturdy herbs such as rosemary, thyme and parsley. They'll drink the moisture just as they would as if they were still attached to the plant, keeping their leaves fresh and crisp.
If you're not interested in having your fridge look like a florist's, you can instead moisten a paper towel with cold, fresh water and wrap the herbs in this, just as you would celery (but steer clear of aluminum foil in this case). This is the only way delicate herbs such as cilantro should be stored; water in a vase is too much for them.
Many people store onions in the fridge, which can be useful if the gas they emit while cutting them is just too much for your eyes, but the fridge is far too cold for them. Instead, place them in a single row in an old (but clean) pair of pantyhose. Tie the pantyhose in the spaces between the onions and hang them in your kitchen or pantry. They'll benefit from the air circulation, the pantyhose will keep them tied together nicely, and they'll be stored at a perfectly suitable temperature. When you want one, just cut the end off the pantyhose, remove what you need, and then tie it back up.
Many people also store their tomatoes in the fridge, but it's a big mistake. Some store their tomatoes on the counter, which is also a big mistake. Tomatoes do need to be stored at room temperature, but the bright light from the sun and kitchen lights can ripen them more quickly, just as they would if they were on the plant under the sun. Instead, keep them in a cupboard or pantry where light can't get to them regularly but will still be at the right temperature to keep them from going bad.
Unlike other fruits, pineapples don't ripen once they're removed from the tree. But their natural sugars sink to the bottom of the fruit, taking away from the juiciness and ripeness. To prevent this, cut off the spiky greens from the top of the pineapple. Turn it upside down on a plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge. All those sugars will be redistributed throughout the fruit, and you'll be able to sink your teeth into soft and juicy pineapple whenever you're ready for it.
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