For those that subscribe to or receive fresh produce boxes on a regular basis face a couple of things: firstly it means a whole treasure trove of goodness all at once, but it can also mean a lot of fresh produce that needs to either be stored and kept or quickly eaten before it goes bad.
Especially during prime fresh produce boxes season you might find your fridge Jenga skills kicking into full effect and can quickly get out of hand when you try to squeeze in just one more bag of leafy greens to the crisper. All of that to say, it can be difficult to store your haul from fresh produce boxes properly, but there are strategies and tricks that will help you keep them fresher for longer.
Separate and Wash Fresh Produce Box Goodies
It's important to wash up and clean your fruits and vegetables when you're bringing home a large amount of produce like those from fresh produce boxes. However, this is not the best way to ensure that your greens stay fresh and crisp for longer than a few days. Certain greens like lettuces and chicory are vulnerable to wilting or rot due to too little or too much moisture. You need to be careful how you store and handle them in the fridge.
When you return home from picking up your fresh produce boxes, the first thing to do is take a quick inventory and create a schedule of when each item will be used - this can be accomplished by dividing it into two categories: immediate use and long-term storage.
You've probably seen those plastic clamshell containers of triple-washed mixed baby greens from the supermarket. Maybe after opening it, you found that about a third of the leaves were rotten and you spent 15 minutes picking through the slimy pieces to make a small salad - this is where fresh produce boxes can make a difference.
The most delicate items from your fresh produce boxes should be cleaned and processed immediately. That being said, it's best to leave items unwashed and in their original packaging until they are ready to be used. This reduces the risk of items becoming rotted or drying out too quickly after washing.
How to Store Items from Fresh Produce Boxes for the Long Haul
Whole heads of lettuce are best stored in a ziplock bag or a sealed container and wrapped in paper towels. The paper towels absorb moisture while the clear container allows you to see inside the package. You're less likely to forget about the head frisee if it's visible.
When sorting through your fresh produce boxes, remove all rubber bands that hold bunches of produce together before it goes into refrigeration. Although the rubber bands are great for easy packaging for vegetables, they can also cause damage to the cells and accelerate rot.
For your "eat later on" vegetables, those can be packed up and put in a bag. Zipper lock bags work well in fridges that have functioning crisper drawers. However, you should not crush the vegetables inside by placing them on top of a full crisper.
The best option for storing vegetables is to use plastic containers, which are often sold at container stores as junk drawer stand-ins or fancy shoe boxes. Depending on what produce you get in your fresh produce boxes, you can either place different items in separate zipper lock bags within the same box or lay them out loosely between kitchen towels or paper towels, depending on how they are packaged.
You can stack stuff on top of the boxes using the hard plastic construction method. This is great for those who don't have much storage. Loose, bagged produce from your fresh produce boxes can easily be crushed by other items or worse, thrown into the back, where greens turn to sludge and you'll find them again a few weeks later when you reach for a cold beverage.
The plastic storage bins make it easy to find what you are looking for without having to reorganize your entire fridge every time you look inside it for ingredients.
How to Store and Clean Produce in the Short Term
After you have removed all the heavy stuff from your fresh produce boxes, it is time to prepare the delicate greens. Fill a large bowl with cold water after you separate the heads of chicory or lettuce into individual leaves, some prefer to pull the leaves off by hand. For certain types of radicchio or endive leaves, a knife is necessary. However, it's best to avoid using one.
Put a large number of greens into the bowl of cold water. Gently wring them around to remove any dirt, debris, or critters. Do not overfill the bowl with greens. There should be enough water between the leaves. Instead, work in small batches. You should never begin with greens in an unfilled bowl. The water from the faucet could cause damage to your lettuce.
After giving the greens a good bath, you should gently lift them from the water. The dirt should be left in the bowl and not poured over the greens. Feel the greens as you take them out of the bowl to check for any grittiness. Some vegetables are grown deeper in the soil than others. Some farmers rinse their produce more frequently than others before packing up their fresh produce boxes.
After the vegetables have been cleaned, give them a good shake. Then transfer the mixture to your salad spinner. Be careful not to fill it with too much. Then, spin the cleaned greens and put the next batch of dirty greens in the pool to dry. The greens should be dried at least 90% to 95% otherwise they will wilt quickly if they become too dry.
You can bag the greens as you would any other vegetables. However, individual leaves are more delicate than whole heads of lettuce. This will allow lettuces to keep for three days and kale for five days. This method has the advantage that you can get rid of all the washing and still have fresh greens to grab for a few days.
Remember that fresh produce boxes come directly from our local farmers, so washing your fresh produce and storing it appropriately will ensure that it lasts longer and tastes better. For more information on our farmers and services or to start getting fresh produce boxes from Four Roots Farm, click here.