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Produce that stays fresh longer >> how to eat healthy in quarantine!

In our current coronavirus quarantine with limited grocery trips, I find I can still eat healthy with produce that stays fresh longer! By storing vegetables and fruits properly and making thoughtful choices, I’ve made veggie loaded omelets, stir-fries, soups, stews, and more!

squashes, carrots, potatoes, and onions roasting in a pan

I grew up in an agricultural community and picked cabbages, potatoes, apples and more and stored them for the winter. Having taken this experience for granted, I find myself feeling so grateful for this knowledge because it allows me to continue eating fresh foods during quarantine in a camper van with a tiny refrigerator, no freezer, and limited storage space.

I hope this information is as valuable for you as it is for us!

10 Vegetables and Fruits that Stay Fresh Longer:

1. Cabbage

Sliced Cabbage

I store whole cabbages in a cool dry place in our pantry or unwrapped on a shelf in the fridge. Once the cabbage is cut (and we rarely make a whole cabbage in one go), wrap the cut end in plastic if possible and store in the refrigerator.

Some websites suggest trapping the moisture by wrapping your whole cabbage in plastic and placing it in your refrigerator crisper. I find this method causes mold to grow more quickly!

Easy ways to serve:

  • Slice green or purple cabbages in fine strips for spring rolls or quick stir-fries with noodles or rice 
  • Cabbage “steaks”: Slice 1 inch thick rounds, brush with oil and spices, and roast at 400 degrees F until soft (about 40 minutes)
  • Slow cook with pot roast

2, 3. Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes

A heart-shaped potato

Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dry, and dark place (think “root cellar”) in our van pantry. Only wash potatoes just before cooking since water causes them to rot and/or sprout eyes. Wash and remove eye spots just before cooking.

Store potatoes in the dark and be aware of green potatoes:  

A mild natural toxin called Solanine is produced when potatoes begin turning green. While the green color is harmless (it’s actually chlorophyll indicating that the potato is ready to sprout), potatoes produce Solanine and chlorophyll under the same conditions. 

Solanine is known to cause digestive distress. While a little bit of the toxin won’t harm most people, you can remove most of the toxin by peeling off the skin and removing any green spots.

Easy ways to serve:

  • Potato hashes
  • Oven baked fries
  • Stews
  • Baked/roasted
  • Cut in long thin slices and roasted to make “potato toast”

4. Onions

Many onion varieties

Like cabbage and potatoes, store onions in a cool dry place – we store them in our van pantry. Onions last longest unpeeled. Once peeled and sliced, store in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Easy ways to serve:

  • Fry with omelets or potato hashes 
  • Fried rice
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5. Carrots

Fresh Carrots

Carrots are best stored in the refrigerator but can handle a cool, dark, dry place for some time. To keep your carrots fresh for up to a month, keep them in a plastic bag with a towel to collect any accumulating moisture.

Unlike the previously listed root veggies, these guys need a little care. Check the bag to make sure water isn’t accumulating and the towel doesn’t get too wet (ideally, swap it out every few days).

If you leave your carrots out of the bag, you may find that they lose moisture and get a rubbery texture. While they are still fine to eat, the texture is not very nice. Note that carrots coated in slime have gone bad and should be composted.

A note on baby carrots:

We find a bag of mini carrots stays fresh for about two weeks.

Easy ways to serve:

  • Eat fresh
  • Grate or julienne and add to a Deconstructed Sushi Bowl or sushi rolls
  • Chop and add to a the slow cooker with a roast
  • Chop and add to pasta sauce

6. Winter Squash

Halved butternut Squash

Winter squashes are best stored in a cool dry place like many of the other produce here. Smaller squashes like delicata and acorn can last up to a month. Spaghetti squashes last even longer, and butternut squashes can last for several months!

Easy ways to serve:

  • Add peeled and cubed butternut squash to curries or roast
  • Spaghetti squash is easily roasted and used in place of noodles (we love to top it with cooked ground beef and mushrooms)

In case you’re wondering, we haven’t been storing winter squashes in the van because we don’t have an oven and they can take a while to cook on the camp stove!

7. Garlic

Peeled and whole garlic

Many people store garlic on their counter, but this is actually a mistake! Light encourages your garlic to grow. Keep it fresh, unsprouted, and mold-free in a dry and dark place with some air circulation. We keep ours in a darker spot in a cupboard. You can also keep it in a paper bag (to keep out the light) on a cupboard shelf. 

Use it to flavor:

  • Stir fries
  • Pasta dishes
  • Curries

8. Apples

Apples from the orchard

While some varieties of ‘perfect’ apples (bug-free, mold-free, bruise-free) can be stored for months, don’t expect to get that longevity with your grocery store produce!

The longest we’ve kept apples is 2-3 weeks, because we eat them so quickly! Washington State is home, after all, and we love our apples <3

Tips for keeping apples fresh for as long as possible:

  • Inspect your apples very carefully! Check for soft spots, a good firm texture, and always look for a stem (no stem or a hole near the stem can indicate bugs). The more ‘perfect’ the apple, the longer it will keep
  • Keep your apples away from other produce! Ripening produce, including onions and potatoes, can cause your apples to ripen more quickly. Apples can also absorb strong flavors (like onions) and will not taste so nice.
  • Store them in a cool dry place, but preferably not  the refrigerator, which can cause the texture to turn soft or mealy.

Where we store our apples:

In our camper van, we store apples in a cool dry place… which also happens to be the cupboard with my clothing! 

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9. Oranges

Sliced and whole oranges

Oranges can last 1-2 weeks if storing on the counter. I recommend you choose an area with good circulation and even turn them every few days (the spots touching the counter or a bowl can get moldy due to trapped moisture).

For longer storage, keep your oranges in a mesh bag (for good air circulation) or freely in your refrigerator, turning every few days for the same reason as above.

Where we store our oranges:

We have a very small refrigerator that cannot accommodate oranges but it is still relatively cool outside in our location in California. We keep them in the cabin of the van in a cool spot (by the door or even in the bed sometimes), and move them to the front of the van at night to stay cool with the falling nighttime temperatures.

For us, they easily last 2-3 weeks. 

10. Dates

Bowl of dates

Dates can last 1-2 months at room temperature and over 6 months in the refrigerator! It’s best to keep them in an airtight container to maintain their quality and taste.

If dates smell rotten or foul, they have gone bad. 

Easy ways to enjoy:

  • Eat plain (they’re delicious!)
  • Stuff with nuts or nut butter 
  • Blend them in smoothies (high-speed blender required)
  • Make nut and date balls or homemade Larabars

Summary:

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What produce have you been buying lately?

Related Posts & Resources:

With love and gratitude,

❤︎ Jamie

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Reader Love

Jamie has celiac disease down to a science!

-Rachel

Vibrantly g-Free
5
2019-07-14T13:44:39-07:00

-Rachel

Jamie has celiac disease down to a science!

A fresh perspective on gluten-free with tips that are easy to implement!

-Lucas

Vibrantly g-Free
5
2019-07-14T13:53:33-07:00

-Lucas

A fresh perspective on gluten-free with tips that are easy to implement!

The best GF info and ideas out there, especially if you travel! Wonderful pictures, as well.

-Ross

Vibrantly g-Free
5
2019-07-14T13:54:34-07:00

-Ross

The best GF info and ideas out there, especially if you travel! Wonderful pictures, as well.

I feel like can travel spontaneously again. Thank you!

-Priska

Vibrantly g-Free
5
2019-07-14T13:55:08-07:00

-Priska

I feel like can travel spontaneously again. Thank you!

I love the vibe - so positive and uplifting!

-Ashley

Vibrantly g-Free
5
2019-07-14T13:55:43-07:00

-Ashley

I love the vibe - so positive and uplifting!
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