How to store vegetables
Keep veggies fresh while saving money and the environment by using smart storage! Here’s how to store vegetables featuring Australia’s 10 favourite veggies…
Next time you’re shopping, stop on the way out and take one in five items from your trolley and throw them straight into the bin — that’s how much you’ll be wasting by the time the week is out.
That’s why we’ve put together some excellent, and scientifically proven, ways to save money and reduce waste by keeping Australia’s favourite 10 vegetables fresh for longer.
- How to store spuds
While the humble potato is a constant in the kitchen, you should never let one sneak into your fridge. Low temperatures prompt the starch — which is what gives your potatoes such a wonderful, earthy texture — to convert into sugars, turning them sweet and gritty.
Instead store potatoes in a dry, cool and dark place, preferably in a box or a paper bag. As long as they’re nowhere near your onions, because…
- How to store onions
I’m going to give it to you straight. If you’re storing your onions near your potatoes you’re getting it wrong — but don’t worry, so are 90 per cent of Australians.
Onions and potatoes both need the same type of environment (we all know that) so we all store them together… But this is a really bad idea because onions passively give off a gas called ethylene, which will cause your potatoes to sprout prematurely.
In fact, ethylene prompts most vegetables to spoil and fruits to ripen. Apples and bananas, particularly over-ripe ones, also give off ethylene gas, so be careful about storing fruits, onions and tomatoes alongside vegetables.
Onions also need a healthy airflow while being stored, so don’t keep them in an airtight container. Mesh or string bags are perfect.
- How to store carrots
Carrots can survive an extraordinarily long time in the fridge if prepared properly. The key is to keep their surface dry, to prevent rot and decay.
First, remove all their leaves and green stubble, because they’ll rot much sooner than the flesh. Then dry your carrots. Next, put down a layer of paper towels on the bottom of your veggie drawer and place your carrots on top of that. Check the paper every few days and replace it when damp, to discourage rot.
Et voila! Your fresh carrots should retain their crunch for up to two, even three months.
- How to store lettuce
Lettuces need to be completely dry so they don’t rot, but stored in a humid environment so they don’t wilt. If you have a fridge with advanced temperature controls, set the crisper drawer to maximum humidity and dry your lettuce with paper towel before storing it. If not, invest in a lettuce box, dry your lettuce, and store it in the bottom of the fridge.
Romaine will keep for a bit longer than your standard iceberg. If you have hydroponic lettuces with the roots still intact, store them in a plastic container with a little bit of water at the bottom for the roots to drink. They can last almost a week stored like this.
- How to store tomatoes
To fridge, or not to fridge … that is the question. Some people will swear blue that refrigeration kills the flavour of tomatoes. But unless you grow your own or buy from farmers’ markets, they’ve already been refrigerated. The trick, as always, is to get the temperature right.
If they’re ripe, pop them in the fridge in the warmest section. If they need more ripening, leave them on the bench, away from the windowsill as they’ll spoil in the sun, and away from ethylene-producing ripe fruit, including ripe pears and apples. The ethylene gas these fruits give off will prematurely spoil your tomatoes.
- How to store broccoli
Love it or hate it, there’s only one place to store your broccoli — and that place is the fridge, inside a loose plastic bag, with a bit of air so it can breath.
Broccoli is one of the few vegetables that freezes really well, providing you blanch it in boiling hot water for a couple of minutes first to deactivate its ripening enzymes first. Otherwise it will sit in your freezer for months, slowly and silently ripening, losing all of its rich colour, flavour and nutrients. Remember to have a bowl of ice-cold water standing by to dunk your broccoli into after blanching to stop the cooking process (some people even keep a second bowl in case the first’s water gets too hot). Drain thoroughly, and then seal in an airtight freezer bag with the air squeezed out. It should last a full year.
- How to store mushrooms
There are an awful lot of recommendations for storing mushrooms, because they present a pretty rare problem — they keep growing once you’ve picked them.
Thankfully, there’s a reason there are so many recommendations — you can store mushrooms in basically anything. An open bowl, a plastic container with plastic wrap on top, cloth bags, paper bags …
The only thing mushrooms care about is having enough air to breathe and a fridge to chill out in.
- How to store capsicum
Just like the Duracell Bunny, capsicums will just keep going and going, lasting almost a week in the fridge with very little work on your part. Wack them in a loose plastic bag that allows them to breathe and throw them in the crisper, as they will dry out in low humidity. Green capsicum will last a bit longer than red capsicum, as it can continue ripening for a few weeks before consumption.
Capsicums of all colours freeze relatively well and don’t even require blanching. Just slice them up and throw them into airtight bags. They will lose some of their texture after thawing, so try to use them in recipes which rely their taste rather than crunch.
- How to store pumpkin
Thanks to their thick skins, pumpkins are extremely hardy. All varieties will last well if stored somewhere cool and dry, and some tough varieties like the Queensland Blue will last a decent while.
Keep them in a cool dry spot, not touching each other, and with a tea towel or cardboard beneath them to stop the pumpkin’s base weakening, which can cause it to rot much more quickly. The other trick is to buy or pick pumpkins with a long stalk or ‘stem’, and never remove this stem, as it protects the pumpkin from infection.
To store a slice of pumpkin in the fridge for a couple of days, simply wrap it tightly in aluminium foil or plastic wrap to prevent moisture from rotting it away.
- How to store zucchini
Zucchini’s another easy one, just give them a wash and chuck them into the fridge in a loose plastic bag, or one with air holes. They should retain their refreshing quality for about a week before they go limp. Sadly, a zucchini that’s been cut into probably won’t last much more than a day, as the exposed flesh will draw all the moisture out of your lovely green.
Ironically, you’ll want to slice a zucchini before freezing. Blanch it for 3 minutes to deactivate its ripening enzymes, as for broccoli, dry on paper towels and store in a solid, airtight container to prevent freezer burn. Should last up to a year.
Although some waste is inevitable in the modern world, with these tips, you should be well on your way to running a more environmentally and fiscally responsible kitchen.
#HisenseHack: To reduce waste further, instead of buying one bunch of bananas, buy individuals from separate bunches at varying levels of ripening. This way you won’t have five bananas ripen all at once. Too late? Peel and freeze in a freezer bag, then pop in the blender instead of ice-cream for your next smoothie.
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