Spring is an exciting time for the produce world. Every week, it seems like more of our favorite fruits and veggies appear on store shelves. It’s also when many seasonal Farmer’s Markets start setting up shop. Here are tips for choosing and storing spring produce to extend shelf life and ensure some of the best tasting greens, berries and more.
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Strawberries: Look for uniform, red strawberries. White or green tips could mean they were picked prematurely and lack some nutritional value. Strawberries have a very short shelf life. Don’t wash them until you are ready to eat. Keep the stem on strawberries while you wash, otherwise they may absorb water and lose flavor.
Asparagus: Thickness does not necessarily indicate whether asparagus is tender. Fat and thin stalks can both be good, it’s a matter of preference. Whichever you choose make sure it is a uniform thickness so it cooks evenly. To determine freshness, look for tightly closed tips.
Artichokes: A good artichoke should feel heavy for its size and have compact, tightly closed leaves. A few blemishes are okay, but if there is heavy browning it could be a sign of frost damage.
Lettuce: Wrap whole lettuce heads in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer. Pull off leaves and wash as needed. Wash leaves whole and then cut them up for your salad or sandwich. Iceberg lettuce typically has the longest shelf life of all lettuces.
Mangoes: Store mangoes at room temperature until they become ripe, then refrigerate them until you’re ready to eat. Skin color is not the best indicator of ripeness. It may turn from green to yellow or red. A better way to tell is by squeezing it lightly. The skin should give a little but not leave an impression.
Avocado: Ripen avocados at room temperature. Speed up the ripening process by placing in a paper bag with an apple. If you cut into an avocado and realize it’s not quite ripe, sprinkle the flesh with lime juice, place the halves together, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator till ripe.
Peas: Go for the small pea pods, which are typically more sweet and tender. Peas are best enjoyed fresh so eat them as soon as possible because they will just lose sweetness and become starchy as time goes on. Store pods in a plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Do not shell them until you’re ready to use.
Onions: Onions are in fact seasonal. Onions harvested in spring have a thinner, lighter color skin and are higher in water content, which can reduce shelf life. They also tend to be sweeter than winter onions. Choose onions that are firm and have no soft spots. Store onions in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not keep them in plastic bags or containers.
Spinach: Wrap spinach in a paper towel and store it loosely in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash it until you are ready to use. Try to eat spinach within 7 days. After that, it may lose almost half of its nutritional content.
Citrus: Peak citrus season is winter but there’s still plenty to go around in the early days of spring. Citrus will typically keep a couple of days at room temperature, but you can extend the life be refrigerating it. Bring to room temperature before juicing to get the most juice out of it.