Last night, when I tried to close the door of my fridge… it wouldn’t seal. That’s when I realized: I might have a problem. A produce problem.
My kitchen is bursting with delicious veggies from our Farm In The Dell community garden (next door to our office) and the Bluebird CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) deliveries once a week. I also have a nice little crop of tomatoes from my patio pots.
I’ve been making an effort to do some juicing and a few veggie stir-fries as we savor the last few nights of summer, but… I have to admit: I’m up to my elbows in tomatoes — and I just can’t use them up fast enough.
In a moment of panic, I began researching tips on how to keep produce fresh, longer.
I found some terrific ideas — but my research generated lots of ideas about what to “do” with all that produce, too, besides just try to preserve it.
Got a serious “produce problem,” like me?
Here are seven things to know and do to use up that beautiful, healthy food:
1. Know your storage basics. Did you know that you should never store fruits and vegetables together, in the same bin? Or that tucking a bunch of bananas in a bowl will accelerate the ripening (and rotting) of everything in close proximity? Who knew? This handy storage guide from TheKitchn.com will get you up to speed.
2. Get a BluApple. This little device looks like — you guessed it — a bright blue plastic apple with a little packet inside. When you tuck it in a bowl of produce, it absorbs ethylene gas (a gas that accelerates ripening) and keeps fruits and veggie fresh … up to three times longer! It’s completely non-toxic and BPA-free, too. And cute!
3. Check out Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags. I’m usually skeptical of infomercial products, but these really work to keep greens fresh longer. I would purchase them again.
4. Throw a veggie-swap party. Got a zillion tomatoes, while your neighbor is drowning in summer squash or sweet corn? Host a potluck, have everyone bring their extra produce along, and divvy up the goods so that everyone goes home with a little bit of everything… instead of too much of one thing!
5. Get blog-spired. When I need a dose of home & cooking inspiration, I always turn to the blogosphere. Michelle from Rosy Blu has a terrific series called “Oops, I Have Too Much!” — “a blog series dedicated to the inevitable abundance of seasonal produce.” Chef Jamie Oliver’s website is another treasure trove of veggie-focused recipes. (He’s got a great collection of How-To Videos, too!)
6. Remember the Three S’s: Sauces, Soups and Salsas. Three great ways to use up a LOT of produce, quickly, and then freeze it for later. Here are oodles of sauce recipes, 45 speedy soups and stews from one of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, and dozens of salsa recipes, too. Really pressed for time? My sister-in-law Marcene and step-daughter shared this gem with me: Just rinse your tomatoes and put them whole in a freezer bag. Use as needed to make salsa or pasta sauce.
7. Give it away. This is a great way to introduce yourself to new neighbors. Non-profit organizations like Ample Harvest, Second Harvest and locally the Great Plains Food Bank accept produce donations and deliver them to thousands of emergency food shelves, homeless shelters, senior community centers and children’s after school programs. If you’re not going to eat it all yourself, don’t that all of that nourishment go to waste.
Happy rinsing, sealing, storing and saucing. And, wish me luck as I try to get that darned fridge door to close!
~ Dr. Sue
P.S. Fill in the blank: “I could never possibly have enough ________ in my kitchen.”