The most common one, however, is one that I'm sure almost all of us have asked ourselves before: How do you make your produce last longer?
It's a valid question, especially the way food prices are skyrocketing these days. Sometimes when I'm in my local Safeway, or even my beloved Trader Joe's, I'm absolutely horrified by some of the prices I'm seeing. $2.19 for a head of green lettuce; $0.99 for one cucumber; $4.99 for a pound of tomatoes... how is anyone supposed to eat well when all the good stuff - fruits and vegetables - is priced so ridiculously?
A lot of that has to do with the extra costs that are trickled down to consumers: wax treatments to make apples look shiny and new; plastic and foam packaging; and all of that fluoridated water that drenches things like spinach or cilantro until they're practically drowning. I won't go too far into my whole rant about the food industry (I'm creating an entirely different blog for that, lol), but suffice it to say that they're not in the business of helping people stay healthy. They're in the business of making big profits.
|These little pickled veggies last for weeks!|
But what if you don't have the time or equipment to engage in these fun canning projects? What if canning's just not your thing and you'd rather have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup or a chopped salad? Here are some other ways to make your produce last a little longer...
If you're not able to find a farmer's market close to you (or if your farmer's markets are only open during certain seasons), grocery store produce is pretty much your only bet. But as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, some of that produce - particularly leafy, green things like lettuces, spinach and fresh herbs - is often so drenched in water from those little spray nozzles that it wilts or spoils pretty quickly.
Excessive moisture is not a vegetable's best friend (there's a reason why you have crisper drawers in your fridge!). To make sure your produce doesn't spoil as quickly, be sure to remove as much moisture as possible before storing it in the fridge. A salad spinner works wonderfully for lettuce, spinach, herbs and even some smaller fruit like cherries and grapes.
|Non-drenched onions are happy onions!|
Frozen fruits and vegetables do exist in their own packaging and they're very convenient, especially during the winter months when fresh produce isn't always as accessible. But what if you do score a killer deal on some of your favorite fruits or veggies - let's say, some sweet, juicy blackberries? Freezing your produce in small portions will allow you to use them however you like for quite awhile.
It works for most fruits & vegetables, though there are some exceptions (fresh tomatoes & cucumbers come to mind). I've frozen everything from butternut squash to chunks of stone fruit like peaches & plums, so I can use them later in smoothies or other recipes. Freezing is also a great way to store beans & other legumes you might have cooked from scratch, which is a huge timesaver on busy weeknights.
|Best way to preserve the flavors of summer? Freeze your berries & cherries!|
Like the resourceful, creative chefs that make amazing dishes out of offal (a.k.a. the "nasty bits" of animals), it's time for home cooks to start using as many parts of their fruits & veggies as they can. I've seen terrible displays of wasted product at friends' or family members' houses, sometimes even on TV. While helpful gadgets like a tomato corer aren't always accessible or affordable, that doesn't mean half the tomato should be wasted just to avoid the core.
But there's more to it than that! A lot of those stems and leaves that many folks throw away are quite useful - and tasty! Did you know that the majority of the flavor in cilantro comes from the stems? Next time you're making salsa or guacamole, don't just use the leaves - chop up those little stems and add some real flavor to the dish. Broccoli stems & rabe (leaves)? Same thing - tons of uses, tons of flavor. The rabe makes a delicious pesto, and the stems are packed with nutrition & flavor, making them a perfect addition in soups, salads and other dishes.
|This Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto uses the entire bunch of leaves & stems for the best flavor|
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These are just a few of the ways I've learned to get around the short lives of my favorite fruits and vegetables. If not for them, my meals would be far less nutritious and just plain boring to look at or enjoy. But sometimes there isn't enough money to get that juicy, ripe tomato, or that pound of Brussels sprouts that's just begging to be roasted or turned into a salad. So, due to the fact that I refuse to live a life without fresh fruits and vegetables, no matter how broke I may be, stretching out their lifespan is crucial to me.
|How can you not be inspired to eat such beautiful food?|