by Mary Collette Rogers
‘Tis the season of vegetable abundance, and with it comes worry about refrigerator rot as we begin loading up (and over-loading ) on the fabulous produce coming to market. As some people joke, don’t let your produce become expensive compost.
Anytime I talk about buying and eating more vegetables, the subject of refrigerator rot surfaces. Seems there are a lot of dollars going down the garbage disposal, right along with the vegetables they bought.
Statistically, only one in ten of us come close to achieving the daily produce recommendations, and that’s only because potatoes are counted as a vegetable! So it’s not hard to imagine vegetables rotting in vegetable drawers due to simple neglect. That’s why my vegetable rot prevention advice begins here: Plan ahead.
- Plan Grab a piece of paper, sketch a rough weekly plan and then plop one (or two or three!) vegetables on each day. At a minimum, simply steam or saute them as side dishes. For more fun, weave them into pasta dishes, soups, salads or entrees. Either way, planning makes it 85% more likely that those vegetables will actually make their way out of the frig and onto your plate.
- Store Right With that said, we can move on to storage, which is also important. As a general rule, leave vegetables unwashed, place in loosely closed plastic bags and get them into the frig as soon as possible. For different vegetables, there are variations on this general rule which can be found in Vegetable a Month online magazine.
- Don’t Cave in to Throw Away Mentality After a few days in the frig, you might assume a vegetable is no longer fresh and must be pitched. Not so fast. It’s easy to get sucked into our “throw away” mentality, but vegetables last a lot longer than you’d think, especially when purchased very fresh (an automatic advantage of buying local.) Even though I routinely overbuy vegetables, I rarely pitch anything since they generally last a week to ten days.* With just a little planning, that’s plenty of time to use them all up.
- Stage Usage from Less to More Sturdy Improve your chances of success even more by planning to use the less sturdy vegetables in your crisper drawers (e.g., spinach, lettuce, zucchini, green beans and eggplant) before the sturdier ones (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers.)
- Dig Deep for Vegetable Beauty Finally, even if a vegetable escapes notice until past its prime, no need to pitch it. Simply cut off any bad spots or pull away any wilted leaves and wash well. Taste to make sure the vegetable hasn’t gone bitter before adding to a dish. Cooking thoroughly can generally eliminate any possible contamination, but if you have any concern, go ahead and pitch a vegetable. Health and safety always trump vegetable conservation.
Author of Take Control of Your Kitchen, Mary Collette Rogers is a recovered commercial attorney who has found her true calling inspiring and empowering women to create good everyday meals. Her creative kitchen coaching makes it easy to prepare meals that nurture moms, connect families, build community and ultimately, create a healthy planet. Read more about creating a new kitchen culture at her blog: everydaygoodeating.wordpress.com and at her website: EverydayGoodEating.com.