Waste not, want not: How to maximise the shelf lives of your fresh produce
BY ANNETTE TAN, 16 MAY 2022
You’ll be surprised by how long your celery and broccoli will last if you just wrap them in foil
Do the bananas you buy barely last a week? Do your coriander sprigs wilt within a day? Have your potatoes sprouted eyes while sitting in your pantry? As a result, do you throw out a good chunk of the produce you buy?
Food waste, as we know, is real the world over. In Singapore alone, we ditched 817,000 tonnes of food in 2021, much of which could be saved if we put more thought into how much we really need and how we can store food better.
Those bananas blackening on your counter-top? That process could have been slowed by wrapping their crown in foil or sticking them in the fridge. Those sprigs of coriander? They would have lasted weeks if stored with their roots immersed in water and their leaves covered in re-used plastic or beeswax wrap.
Little actions like these lead to big results as the adage goes. By investing a little more time in storing our food better, we can make the produce we buy last longer and prevent waste. In that spirit, we’ve put together a list of simple ways to make your fresh groceries go further.
Wrap banana stems in foil
Like many fruits, bananas release ethylene, a gas that controls enzymatic browning and ripening not only of the fruit itself, but of other fruits nearby. Much of this off-gassing happens at the stem that holds the comb of bananas together. When you wrap the stem in foil, you help trap some of that ethylene, which slows the browning process. Another upside of wrapping your banana crowns? Fewer or no fruit flies.
An alternative way to store bananas is in the fridge. Their skins will darken, but their flesh remain pale and fresh for at least a week. Unless, of course, you’re planning to make banana cake. In which case, ignore all that advice and let your bananas brown.
Day 1 vs. Day 5: The bananas, set on the kitchen counter in room temperature, are slightly browner but still fresh for eating.
Wrap celery, lettuce and broccoli in foil
Bananas aren’t the only produce that benefit from being wrapped in foil. Wrapping vegetables such as celery, broccoli and lettuce helps keep them crisp for up to a month. Make sure you wrap them loosely so the ethylene can escape while holding in enough moisture to keep the veggies fresh. Foil keeps out light, which also stalls the ripening process.
Day 1 vs. Day 10: Day 10 As crisp as they were on day 1!
Wrap celery, lettuce and broccoli in foil
As soon as you get home, cut open your bag or salad greens, slip a dry paper towel in, and reseal. The paper towel will absorb moisture, keeping the greens fresher for longer. Replace the paper towel every two days. Alternatively, remove the greens from the bag, give them a quick wash and gently pat them dry on a clean tea towel. Line a container with paper towels and place the leaves on them. Top with another paper tower before storing in the fridge. Not only will your salad leaves stay fresh, but they are also washed and ready to eat straight out of the fridge.
Pack an apple with your potatoes
Potatoes and onions are great friends when cooked together, but in the pantry, you’ll want to keep them as far away from each other as possible. Storing onions around potatoes will cause the potatoes to sprout. Sprouted potatoes contain higher levels of glycoalkaloids, which can be toxic when eaten in excess. To keep your potatoes from sprouting, place an apple in the same bag. The ethylene emitted by the apple helps keep those potato eyes at bay.
Day 1 vs. Day 5: Minimal eye growth, still safe for eating.
Treat your tender green herbs like flowers
Herbs with tender green stems such as coriander, parsley, mint, basil and dill are notorious for wilting and blackening in the fridge. To make them last, treat them like you would cut flowers. Trim the bottom of their stems, remove any wilted or brown leaves and put them in a glass filled with about an inch or two of water. Cover with a plastic bag and let it sit in the fridge. The herbs will last at least a week this way. If your herbs come with roots intact, just give them a quick wash and do the same.
Day 1 vs. Day 10: Still fresh as daisies!
Cook your food
When it’s too late to stop your produce from ripening, cook it. Roast tomatoes, zucchini or other veggies with a touch of olive oil for 20 minutes at 180°C. Grill meats and boil eggs that need using up. Store the cooked food in airtight containers in the fridge and use in sandwiches, pastas or salads throughout the week.
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