Is there anything lamer than having fresh fruit and veggies go bad before you can get around to using them? If you need more time between grocery store and serving platter, give these techniques a try.
Bananas – Wrapping the stem end of a bunch of bananas in plastic wrap seems to keep the bunch fresher longer. Each time you remove a banana, carefully replace the wrap. I’m not a huge banana fan so I can’t really attest to this method for preserving the flavor and texture of the fruit itself, but I’ve tried it on the bananas I serve others and I can definitely say that it definitely does appear to slow the blackening of the skin.
Alternatives: some people advocate splitting up banana bunches and storing them at room temperature, laid out so they don’t touch each other. The thinking behind this is that as soon as one banana in a bunch starts to go bad it will take its bunchmates with it. And for maximum banana shelf life, separate the bunch and wrap each stem individually. And others say the best way to extend the flavor and texture of bananas is to (gasp!) store them in the fridge. Refrigeration does make the skins get dark (so don’t use this method if you’re likely to need a banana for scale) but it doesn’t effect the fruit itself and fans of this method say it’s the best way to guarantee freshness for the longest time.
Berries: As soon as you get your berries home, give them a quick dip & swish in a vinegar and water bath, then dry and store in the fridge. The vinegar kills off lurking bacteria and mold spores that can make your fruit go soft and spoil quickly, and though you can rinse the berries before you use them it isn’t necessary – you don’t taste the vinegar at all. Opinions on the exact strength of vinegar necessary seems to vary a lot; some say one part vinegar to three parts water is best, while others recommend other ratios up to and including 1:10. This variability really works for me, in that it appears to indicate that the exact ratio isn’t really all that important. I just find a container big enough to hold the berries, fill it with warmish water, and bung in two or three good glugs of vinegar. Add the berries, swish ’em around a bit, drain and let them dry on a paper towel. What it lacks in precision it makes up for in convenience.
Celery: separate the bunch by cutting off the bottom and trim off the raggedy tops. Rinse the stalks and dry with a towel, then wrap closely in aluminum foil and store in the fridge. Theoretically celery should be stored on the bottom of your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, but in my experience that’s not a must by any means. Our entire fridge is in a perpetual state of massive overcrowding and the veggie drawer is always so jammed that just finding the bottom of it is a challenge, let alone making space there for a wonking great bunch of celery. Just put the foil-wrapped packet in the fridge somewhere and each time you use a stalk, rewrap it. You’ll find the celery is fresh and crispy for a long, long time.
Carrots, green peppers, and broccoli: basically the same as for celery: wrap in foil and store in the fridge. But you don’t need to trim and separate broccoli – just wrap it up with the florets still connected – and be sure to trim the green green leaves and stems from carrots before wrapping. If you leave them on they’ll draw moisture from the carrots.
Mushrooms: remove from the plastic wrapped foam tray they come in and refrigerate them in a paper bag. Don’t wash mushrooms until you’re ready to use them.
Asparagus: trim the ends like you’d trim the stems of a bouquet of flowers and store in a heavy glass or jar in the fridge with the stems submerged in water.
Parsley and cilantro: same as for asparagus – trim the stems and store with ends submerged in water – but if your fridge is jammed you can store them on the countertop. Change the water every couple of days.