Summer is here and with the warmer weather we are all hopefully eating more salads, fresh fruit and berries as they come into season. Our buying habits have also changed, with more of us doing just one weekly shop and only topping up locally when absolutely necessary. So now our fresh food has to last longer.
We have teamed up with Stop Food Waste to find out how to make fruit and veg last longer and help you cut down on food waste.
How to Make Summer Fruit & Veg Last Longer
Storage is Key
Storage is key when you are trying to make your summer fruit and veg last longer. Some need to be kept in the dark while others need light, some need moisture while others need to be kept dry, and some need to be kept away from all others!
Get to know your fruit and vegetables and what they like, and you’ll not only reduce waste but get maximum nutrition from your fresh food. You can get started by visiting Stop Food Waste who have a complete list of fruit and vegetables and how best to store them.
How to Keep Berries Fresh
There really is nothing better than fresh berries in season. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and many others are all readily available during the summer months. And the key to storing fresh berries is to keep them in a fruit drawer in the fridge.
They can bruise easily so be sure to store them carefully. Don’t wash them or remove the stalks until you are ready to eat them. And remove any berries that look like they are starting to spoil as they can cause other berries around them to rot too.
If you have them for a few days and don’t think you will eat them, try freezing them. Grapes are especially nice when frozen. And fresh or frozen berries can be added to smoothies or turned into fruit puree and served with ice cream or custard as a dessert special.
How to Store Fresh Fruit
Most fruit can be kept in a fruit bowl, but be sure to only add new fruit when older items have been consumed. Remember not to overfill the fruit bowl as fruit needs air to circulate.
For fruit that you keep in the fridge, have a storage system that encourages older items to be consumed before moving on to the newer ones.
Bananas are the one fruit that need to be kept away from others. Hang them separately as they produce ethylene gas that causes other fruit to ripen more quickly. If you do have overripe bananas, check out our kid approved banana bread recipe, which is the perfect way of using them up.
Citrus fruits can be stored in the fridge, but if you don’t have the space they will keep well in a cool, dry space. They will be juicier if kept out of the fridge, but can last for up to a month if refrigerated.
For fruit that is getting close to its use by date, think about what dishes you could use them up in. For instance, stewed apples are great with pork, berries and venison or create a fruit crumble, smoothie or some ice lollies!
How to Keep Vegetables Fresh and Nutritious
Store vegetables away from fruit if possible. Some fruits produce ethylene gas which causes other fruit and vegetables to ripen more quickly. Even in the fridge, if you have two crisper drawers, use one for storing fruit and the other for vegetables.
Most vegetables prefer a little moisture, while most fruit prefers less humidity. By closing the vents in the vegetable drawer, you will help maintain more moisture and vegetables will stay fresher for longer.
In addition, remove vegetables from any plastic packaging to help prolong freshness and nutrients. Vegetables like air and allowing it to circulate freely will help them breathe and prolong freshness.
Some vegetables prefer to be kept in the dark. Potatoes and onions should both be kept in a cool, dark cupboard, away from each other, as onions produce moisture which make potatoes sprout more quickly, and away from any heat source, which also speeds up sprouting.
I find the best way to use up vegetables is by making various soups, even during the summer months my children love a bowl when we get home from the beach or a day out. They can also be added to smoothies, used in a stir fry, or you could blanch and freeze them for use at a later date.
Keep Salad Items Fresher for Longer
Lettuce needs moisture and air circulation to keep it fresh and crisp. Even bagged salad leaves will last longer if you remove them from the packaging, wash and dry them and refrigerate in an aerated container loosely covered with some damp paper towels and a plate underneath for catching drips.
For a head of lettuce, remove a little off the root and place it root side down in a container with approx half an inch of water. Place a plastic bag loosely around the head and store in the fridge.
Both methods will help keep the lettuce fresh for up to 5 days, and this method can also be use to rejuvenate wilted lettuce too.
Tomatoes should be kept cool but not in the fridge, while cucumber should be kept in the plastic wrap (if it comes wrapped) and stored with other vegetables in the crisper drawer.
Final Tips to Stop Food Waste and Save Money
As with all fresh food, the quicker you eat it the better the quality and nutrient value. Here are some tips to help you cut down on food waste and save money too:
- Have a system in place for rotating fruit and vegetables so that older ones get used up first.
- Check before you shop and see what you have, then only buy what you need.
- Plan meals so you can be sure you will use what you buy.
- Think ahead and look for recipes to use up fruit and vegetables that are coming close to the use by date.
- Grow your own if you have space. It is really satisfying to pick fruit and vegetables that you have grown in the garden or in tubs on the patio.
- Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season.
- Look at where your fruit and vegetables have come from and buy local when possible.
- Involve the children in preparing salads and meals, they are more likely to eat something they helped prepare.
- Add any peelings or overripe fruit to the compost bin so it can be recycled and used to fertilise other plants and flowers in the garden.
- Visit www.stopfoodwaste.ie for an A-Z of tips on storage, cooking and managing food at home to cut down on food waste.