Vegetables are friends AND food
Most of us can probably agree that an array of colorful fruit and vegetables are foundational for a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet (Carnivore dieters, we can chat later). However, veggie knowledge and veggie intake are two very different things and the first does not readily and easily translate to the second. Life is like this, right? I know I should probably implement a regular skincare routine but when it comes down to it, I don’t know anything about buying or using skincare products. I know I should keep a well-manicured lawn but, honestly, I could not tell you the first thing about working the tools necessary to do so.
My point? Even when we know that adding something to our daily regimens might enrich our overall health and experience of life, if we don’t feel like we have the tools or means to do so, it probably won’t happen. In my opinion, vegetables are the same way. Buying, cleaning, prepping, and storing them can be downright intimidating if we’re still green to the produce practice.
So what’s the first step to tackling the unknown? Get familiar. Here are two takeaways for how to become better acquainted with our fibrous friends:
First, know how to pick your veggies for optimal freshness.
When veggie shopping, the two key factors to consider when picking your produce are color, and texture/feel. Unlike fruit, veggies don’t signal ripeness with odor, so this will be a mask-friendly shopping experience. In general, choose veggies that are consistent in color and texturally firm/crisp. Here are a few tips to consider as you meander and make your sections:
Broccoli and Cauliflower: Color is the best indicator for freshness with these guys. Broccoli should be pale green and cauliflower off-white. Avoid items that are browning or yellowing. Also, both these cruciferous vegetables should be heavy and compact – stalks should be firm to the touch.
- Peppers: Once again, color is king here. Look for consistency of color across the entire surface of the pepper. Also, avoid picking peppers that have soft spots or split or broken stems.
- Root Vegetables: Carrots, potatoes and onions — for these guys, texture is more important than color. Look for ones that are hard to the touch and free of cracking or soft spots.
- Leafy Greens: If you are buying boxed or bagged greens, reach towards the back of the selection – that’s where the newest items will be. Check expiration dates and find the greens that have the most life left in ‘em. While you’re at it, check all sides of the box/bag and be on the lookout for excess moisture and/or slimy spots. There’s nothing quite worse than slimy, smelly greens. If you are buying fresh, check that all layers if leaves are crisp and void of wilting. A few tears are common but excess tearing or browning should be avoided.
Then, know how to protect and store your veggies for prolonged freshness.
So you’ve just arrived home with your perfectly selected produce and the next problem arises: where and how to store your various veggies! There are three main categories of veggies in terms of where they’re stored: in the fridge, in a cool dry, dark place (other than the fridge), and on the countertop.
In the Fridge:
- First of all, make sure you store your fruits and veggies in separate drawers in the fridge. Fruits produce ethylene gas which can spoil vegetables.
- Green beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and cauliflower should all be stored in the crisper drawer how they come. If you pre-chop anything for the week, make sure you store in a tightly-sealed container
- Delicate herbs such as parsley, cilantro and mint should be stored stem down in a glass or mason jar. Fill the glass with water about ½ way to the top and then cover the herbs and the glass loosely with a plastic bag. You can do the same thing with asparagus!
- Whole stalks of leafy greens (not in a bag or box) should be wrapped in a paper towel and then stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
- Greens in a box or a bag should be removed and placed in a separate airtight container lined with a few paper towels.
- Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag and do not wash until you are ready to use them.
Pantry (or other cool, dry, dark place)
- Garlic, sweet potatoes and all winter squash can simply be stored on a shelf in the pantry. All other potatoes should be stored in a paper bag in the pantry.
- Onions should be stored separately from other veggies; they release a gas that could damage other produce.
On the Counter
- Avocados and tomatoes should be allowed to ripen on the counter and then placed in the fridge for maximum freshness. Remember to wash your tomatoes just before using.
- To speed up the ripening process of avocados, place 1-2 in a paper bag with a ripe banana. Keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t turn mushy on you.
Now that you know, it’s time to put that knowledge to work! Next time you’re making your grocery list, add a few extra veggies with the confidence that you know both how to pick ‘em, and make ‘em last.