When you buy fruits and vegetables online, it’s best to consume them within days of purchase. Online supermarkets can guarantee the quality of the produce they sell. Once you buy them and they arrive at your doorstep, however, it’s all up to you to maintain freshness. The same goes for any produce you buy from markets or ones you harvest from your garden or farm.
Cooking or consuming fruits and vegetables as soon as possible ensures that you get the highest amount of nutrients. If you store produce for a long time, not only do their nutritional value decrease. They also decline in flavour and texture. Worse, when the food goes bad, you’ll end up with a lot of waste.
If you happen to over-buy produce and/or won’t be able to consume them on time, one of the best things to do is to preserve them. Preserving fruits and vegetables also gives you new ways of eating or cooking them, which can make mealtimes more enjoyable. Kids will certainly be excited or at least more curious about fruits and vegetables.
Here are some easy ways to preserve the fruits and vegetables you buy:
Drying fruits and vegetables removes their water content, which means bacteria won’t be able to grow and survive. Do note that once you dry fruits and vegetables, their texture and taste will likely change. After drying, you may add a few spices like salt, sugar, or pepper to enhance the flavour.
You need to achieve about 95% dehydration before you can store fruits and vegetables in ambient conditions. The simplest way to do this is to use a dehydrator and pick the specific setting for the fruit or vegetable that you’re drying. You may also use an oven, although this requires more careful steps. A good way to tell if the fruits and vegetables are sufficiently dry is by touch. They should feel leathery, not soft and spongy.
There are two ways to can fruits and vegetables: through a hot water bath and pressure canning. The hot water bath method is for acidic foods, while pressure canning is for low-acid foods. This is because these foods don’t contain enough acids to stop bacterial growth. Make sure to sterilise the jars, lids, and cans that you are using as containers.
When done properly, canning can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by up to 12 months. What’s more, canning is also good for preserving both fresh and cooked foods.
Making Jams and Jellies
One of the best and most delicious ways to preserve fruit is to make jams and jellies. You can find plenty of instructions for various kinds of jams and jellies online. Your parents or grandparents may even have a secret recipe! The only “trick” is to pick the freshest ingredients you can find. You should also have a few lemons handy. Add some lemon juice to low-acid fruits and make them gel just right. If you’re concerned about sugar levels, search specifically for low-sugar alternatives. Do note that the sugar helps preserve the fruits and enhance the jelly texture.
When you think of pickles, cucumbers and zucchinis are probably the first things that come to mind. However, pickling is also a great way to preserve fruits like apples and pears. Peppers and cauliflowers are also perfect candidates for pickling.
Basic pickling solutions often include white vinegar, salt, and sugar, which are all used in preserving various kinds of food. You may also add some ground black pepper to add a bit more flavour. Then make sure that all parts of the fruit or vegetable are submerged in the solution. Seal the jar tight and let it sit for at least a week. Proper pickling can make fruits and vegetables last for years.
For vegetables in particular, a good preservation method is salting. Due to the high concentration of salt, bacteria and microorganisms die or become “deactivated” through dehydration. What’s great about salting is that it’s also easy to do. Simply lay the vegetables on a large pan and submerge them in water. Then, continuously add salt until the salt doesn’t dissolve anymore. Refrigerate for about a week, drain the brine, then sprinkle more salt on top of the vegetables. After this, all you have to do is wait until the vegetables are dry.
Freezing is an easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables. However, consider that not all fruits or vegetables can be frozen, such as strawberries, watercress, and radish. For those that can be frozen, freeze them on a metal tray first and then transfer into clean and airtight bags. If you want, you can already portion the fruits and vegetables for easier cooking. Starchy vegetables should be blanched with cold water and fruits that turn brown should be treated with ascorbic acid before freezing. Just remember that freezing doesn’t make your fruits and vegetables last as long compared to other methods.
What’s great about these preservation methods is that they not only extend the shelf life of produce. They also help ensure that you have a steady supply of fruits and veggies. Try one of these methods the next time you shop for groceries.