Tag Archives: Keeping Produce Fresh

winter squash

Winter Squash is Here

winter squashNew York’s recent summer-like weather may have hidden the change in seasons, but the selections at farmers’ markets across the state make it clear that autumn is here. Stalls are laden with apples, jugs of cider, dried corn stalks, and the dark greens, pale yellows, creams, and oranges of winter squash. Though technically fruit but referred to as vegetables, they are versatile, high-fiber, low-calorie options that add a fresh touch to any fall comfort meal and, if stored properly, last for months.

Here are a few of the most popular varieties:

Acorn squash are round, generally small, and have thick dark green and orange skin. Its flesh is orange-yellow and has a slightly nutty taste. Look for specimens with firm skins free of soft spots or blemishes. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a month. It can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, and even cooked in the microwave.

Buttercup squash is squat and round. Its rind is dark green and marked by green-gray markings; there is a round ridge on its bottom. Many say that its bright orange flesh is the sweetest of any of the winter squashes, though it can be dry so it’s best to steam or bake it. Choose a squash that’s heavy for its size, with even coloring. Avoid squashes with blemishes, soft spots, or dull skin. While buttercup doesn’t store as well as some squashes — no more than one month stored in  a cool, dry spot, once cooked, it freezes well for use throughout the winter months.

Butternut squash is shaped like a pear. Its exterior is smooth with cream-colored skin. Slice it open and there’s a deep orange flesh; seeds are found only in the ‘bell’ of the squash, with the ‘neck’ all flesh. It has a light, sweet flavor. Look for a squash that is heavy for its size; the skin should be firm and free of bruises, brown spots, or cuts. If stored correctly, butternut can be stored for months.  This is a squash for almost any use — baking, roasting, and in cube for sautéing. Mash it for a puree and make a great soup!

Spaghetti squash is a great low-carb alternative to pasta. When cooked, the moist flesh develops strands that resemble spaghetti, with a light flavor that lacks sweetness and a tender, chewy texture. Roast or steam the squash, scrape out the strands, mix with your favorite tomato sauce and eat like pasta. Look for a cylindrical shape with a firm exterior that ranges in color from pale cream to bright yellow. Can be stored for up to one month.

Here’s a salad recipe that uses winter squash from delish.com;

Ginger-roasted Winter Squash Salad

INGREDIENTS
½ c. water
¼ c. sugar
½ c. red wine vinegar
1 stick cinnamon
¼ c. dried currants
2½ lb. thick-fleshed acorn squash
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt, ground pepper
1 piece fresh ginger
2 tbsp. Crème fraîche

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a small saucepan, combine the water with the sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the currants and simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Rub the squash with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Using a fine grater, grate the ginger over the cut sides of the squash and rub it into the flesh.

Transfer the squash to the prepared baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for about 15 minutes, until the squash starts to soften. Turn the squash cut side up and roast for about 17 minutes longer, until tender; transfer to a work surface and let cool slightly.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Cut the squash into 1 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Lightly rub the foil with oil and arrange the squash on the baking sheet; roast for about 25 minutes, turning once halfway through, until golden and crisp along the edges

Arrange the squash on a platter with mixed greens. Discard the cinnamon stick from the currants and add the currants to the squash. Drizzle with the pickling liquid and crème fraîche, and serve.

 

Photo Credit: Hans Via Pixabay

vegetables

Storing Fresh Produce

vegetablesYou’ve just come home from the farmers’ market and now you need to know how best to store them.

Most leafy veggies like kale, spinach, escarole, and chard as well as broccoli should be used within three to five days. You’ve got five to seven days to use arugula, bell peppers, green beans, zucchini and summer squash (all of which you can find at the market right now!) You’ve got more time to use up cabbage, carrots, turnips and beets, as they have a shelf life of two weeks or more.

A few tips for storing your fresh treasure:

  • Store fruits and vegetables separately; some foods can make other fruits and vegetables ripen or rot faster
  • Keep broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers away from other produce
  • Wash your leafy produce and dry well; wrap in a dishtowel or paper towel, and put in a plastic bag (poke some holes in it first!) and then store in the vegetable drawer
  • Remove the greens from carrots, turnips, beets and parsnips and store them loose in the crisper drawer. But keep the greens. They are tasty too!
  • Store most other vegetables in plastic bags with holes in them

Blueberries, the Super Food!

They’re showing up at the farmers’ market now – blueberries! Loaded with antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C, blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits you can eat. Just one-half cup of blueberries a day can lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. They also are a natural anti-inflammatory. When buying, pick the darkest blue fruit – the darker the fruit, the more health benefits they have. Frozen blueberries are just as good as the fresh ones, so be sure to pick up extra at the market now and freeze them for later!

To get a healthy start to your day, here’s a Wake-Up Smoothie recipe from the eatingwell.com test kitchen:

Ingredients

1¼ cups orange juice, preferably calcium-fortified

1 banana

1¼ cups frozen berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and/or strawberries

½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

Directions
Combine orange juice, banana, berries, and yogurt in a blender; cover and blend until creamy. Serve immediately.

Photo Credit: Free-Photos Via Pixabay

plastic containers for storing food in the fridge

How-to Keep Your Produce Fresh: Shelf-life 101

Everyone loves to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, but it can be difficult to keep produce fresh without spoiling. Each year, Americans dump $43 billion worth of spoiled food. To save your SNAP EBT benefits and the environment, use these tips to maximize your produce’s shelf-life and minimize waste.

Location of Produce

To lengthen the shelf-life of your produce, you must slow each food’s respiration using cold temperatures, typically using the refrigerator. Warmer temperatures speed up the rate of respiration. Some fruits release ethylene, a gas that’s speeds the rate of respiration and spoiling. To maximize your produce’s freshness:

  1. Refrigerate these ethylene releasers: Apples, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Figs, and Honeydew
  2. Do not refrigerate these ethylene releasers: Pears, Plums, and Tomatoes
  3. Keep these away from ethylene releasers: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash Sweet Potatoes, and Watermelon

Always make sure to never store produce in airtight bags or containers, lack of air flow accelerates decay.

Secret Tips

Specific fruits and vegetables last the longest when stored in particular ways. For example, berries last longer when rinsed in a one-part vinegar, three-part water mixture. Some other tricks to fresh produce are:

  • Store lettuce in a bowl with a paper towel and a dash of salt. The paper towel and salt absorbs the moisture and wetness from the lettuce
  • Store carrots in a bowl of water and seal with plastic wrap to keep them moist
  • Wrap onions in pantyhose to allow the right amount of air to circulate to keep the vegetable fresh
  • Store apples with potatoes to keep your potatoes from sprouting
  • Soak apple slices in salt water to prevent them from browning
  • Wrap celery in aluminum foil to allow ethylene to escape

What to Eat First

Although storing your fruits with the correct vegetables and following these secret tips help lengthen your produce’s shelf-life, you still must eat more perishable produce first. Delicate fruits such as raspberries are never going to last regardless of your storing techniques. Follow this guide to know how to prioritize your produce:

Eat on Day 0 – Day 2: Artichokes, Asparagus, Basil, Broccoli, Cherries, Corn, Dill, Green beans, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Strawberries, and Watercress

Eat on Day 3 – Day 5: Arugula, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Grapes, Lettuce, Lime, and Zucchini

Eat on Day 6 – Day 7: Apricots, Bell peppers, Blueberries, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, Grapefruit, Leeks, Lemons, Mint, Oranges, Oregano, Parsley, Pears, Plums, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Watermelon

Eat on Day 8+: Apples, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, and Winter squash

Check out what’s being picked this week*: Grapes, Kale, Apples, Brussel Sprouts, Beets, Cabbage, Broccoli, Beans, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Herbs, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes, Squash, Sweet Corn, Raspberries, Okra & Collards

*Availability will vary by market due to differences in growing zones.

Recipe of the Week:

Looking for a last minute side dish for dinner tonight? Try this recipe!