The season of farmers markets, CSA shares, and home gardens is finally here. After our long winter and equally extended spring, I couldn’t be happier to have access to fresh greens, tasty brassicas like kohlrabi, and local asparagus (and soon, the tomatoes will be here!).
One thing that often trips me up for those first couple weeks as I adjust from grocery store produce to fruits and vegetables that are straight from the farm or orchard is storage. Each week, there is a basket of entirely unpackaged food that needs to be processed a little (to make it as ready to use as possible) and put away.
In past years, I’ve been heavily dependent on a motley assortment of plastic bags. This year, I’m working hard at eliminating unsustainable plastic from my produce storage. Thanks to the nice folks at MightyNest, I’ve had some new glass food storage containers, reusable produce bags, and dish towels to play with that have made tucking my farmers market haul easier (and even something of a pleasure!).
I’d thought I’d take some time to share my tips for stashing my greens and goods without plastic in the hopes that it might be helpful for some of you!
For lettuces that I want to prep for easy use but still keep in whole leaf form (in case I want to slip a leaf or two onto a sandwich), I pull the head apart, wash the leaves, and dry them. A salad spinner is nice for drying greens, but if you don’t have one, lay out a clean kitchen towel and lay the lettuce out in a single layer. Put another towel on top, pat it down, and then carefully roll it all up. Give the lettuce bundle a gentle shake over your sink and unroll again (these Full Circle bamboo towels are incredibly absorbent!). The lettuce should be dry enough to store!
Then, layer the lettuce leaves in a container, separating the leaves every couple levels with a small cloth or paper towel (I have a stash of these Bird-E Towels, which are great for this purpose). As far as the container goes, I like to use the 109 ounce Duralex lidded bowl, as it is large enough for a whole heck of a lot of lettuce.
Side note: I also love that you can buy replacement lids for these bowls when the original wears out. I hate having to give up on a container simply because the lid has gone bad. Someone out there was thinking!
For heartier things, like kohlrabi, kale, asparagus, green garlic, harukei turnips, and even celery or lovage, any sturdy glass container will do the job. These items don’t need a whole lot of absorbent padding or breaking down, so I simply grab any vessel that can hold the food and will fit in my fridge.
I really like the long low six cup ones with the tight fitting lids (those Duralex bowls in smaller sizes are also good). What’s nice about these long, low containers is that they’re also oven safe, so you can bake and store in them as well! They also stack evenly and securely. And as you can see, sometimes I double things up if I feel like it won’t impact the flavor or consistency. Kale and green garlic can hang out nicely without flavor transfer or texture degradation.
For large bundles of spinach or mustard greens that I want to keep whole, I use the towel technique. I get a tea towel slightly damp and roll the greens up in it, tucking the ends in and trying to get at least two layers of material around the veg. It should be just damp, but not sopping.
Tucked into the crisper, this helps keep the greens fresh and perky, at least for a few days. I do make it a priority to use these tender greens in the first couple days after bringing them home, because they aren’t going to last an entire week (the kale will last much longer because it’s simply sturdier by nature).
Other tips for storing.
- If you’re going to use them promptly, cucumbers don’t need to be refrigerated. They actually do better above 50 degrees F and so can be kept on the counter for up to three days.
- When we get into tomato season, keep them away from the cold and store them stem end down for the best lifespan.
- Use that tea towel technique described earlier for asparagus as well as tender greens.
- Any time you store radishes, small turnips or beets that came with their greens, separate the roots from the leaves upon bringing them home. Wrap and store the greens separately to keep them crisp and useable.
- Leeks don’t need any special treatment at all. Just shake off the worst of the dirt from the roots and pop them into the crisper.
- Conventional wisdom used to be that you never washed berries before storing, but research has shown that washing them in a vinegar solution before storing actually extends their lifespan.
So, now to the giveaway portion of this blog post. I’ve teamed up with the nice people at MightyNest to give a set of storage containers, towels, and other goodies away to one lucky Food in Jars winner. This giveaway is working a little bit differently than some have in the past. Instead of simply signing up in the hopes of getting some free stuff, I’m going to ask you to take a pledge. A promise that this year, you’ll do your best to enjoy seasonal produce as much as you possibly can (seems like a good thing to work towards, right!).
The other cool thing about this pledge is that in the process, you’ll also be able to earn points for your local school to help them win $1000 this month in the MightyNest for Schools “Get Fresh” Challenge. It doesn’t matter whether you have kids in school or not. Pick your local school, the one you attended for 4th grade, or the one your favorite child attends. Just click the button that says “I Pledge” to enter!
Disclosure: MightyNest provided containers, towels, produce bags, and a produce brush to me for photography purposes and at no cost to me. They are also providing the giveaway package for the winner and are a site sponsor. However, my opinions still remain entirely my own.