Storing Eye-Healthy Fruits and Veggies Properly
Many of my articles are centered around eating healthy food in order to help preserve our vision. Eating healthy food is so important and can be so delicious, but I’m aware that it just isn’t always that easy.
The expense of produce
First of all, fruits and veggies can be expensive. I’ll never forget trying to buy strawberries for my kids one day and seeing the $7.99 price tag. WOW...ummm...did we REALLY need those strawberries? If you struggle with this obstacle too, check out this article I wrote recently about money-saving tips for fresh produce.
The pain of produce rotting before we can eat it
Besides that, there’s nothing quite as disheartening as seeing all of that fresh (and often expensive) produce rotting away before your eyes faster than you can eat it. This brings me to the purpose of this article.
Properly storing produce to preserve freshness
All fruits and veggies prefer a certain way to be stored. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you know their preference, it’s really easy to do. You can even print out this following list, cut it down, and stick it on your refrigerator or inside of your pantry to help you remember! That’s what I do!
To wash? Or not to wash?
Remember, in regards to freshness, it’s best to wash and prepare fruits and veggies right before using them. Often when we wash them ahead of time, they tend to start their deterioration process sooner.
That is not to say that it isn’t possible to wash and store fruits and veggies. I actually prefer washing them right away because then the produce actually gets eaten. If I have unwashed strawberries in the fridge, they will mold and rot right there in their container. If I wash them and place them in an easy grab and go dish or even a bowl inside of the fridge, my family will nibble on them throughout the day and they never go to waste.
I also wash and prepare 5 lunch salads for the workweek each Sunday and they stay fresh throughout the week really well. These salads include a type of lettuce and all of the veggies I want in my salad cleaned, chopped and ready to go.
Quick Tip: Sometimes we buy produce and it isn't ripe yet, but we want it to be so we can eat it! If you want to ripen fruits or veggies faster, try placing them in a dark place, or a paper bag.
Fall and winter produce preservation
There are so many fruits and veggies out there, I’ve chosen to stick with eye-healthy fruits and veggies that are in season that I frequently purchase at the store. If you’re wondering about any other fruits or veggies, please feel free to ask in the comments under the article and I'd be glad to help you out.
Fresh apples generally last a good while before they go bad. Place them on the counter in a fruit bowl (or in the refrigerator if you like them cold), rinse right before eating and enjoy! I love peanut butter on my apples for added flavor and protein. Seasonal apples are always fun to get because they do taste differently. Plus, the fresher they are the tastier they are.
If you want to go home from the store and cut up your avocado right away for toast or even guacamole, you should buy a soft (not squishy) avocado with the ‘button’ still in place on the end. The skin on avocados turns darker (almost black) as it ripens. If you’re waiting to eat your avocado later in the week, get one that is more firm and has a brighter green skin. If you’d like to slow down the ripening of your fruit (yes, avocado is actually a fruit), place it in the refrigerator. If you want to ripen it more quickly, place it on the counter or even in a brown paper bag overnight. Avocados ripen quickly. I usually rinse my avocado right before cutting into it.
Bananas ripen quickly, within the course of a week. If you want to slow down the ripening process, simply pull the bananas apart from one another and place them on your counter. Keeping the bananas bunched causes them to ripen more quickly. Bananas seem to be a fruit that everyone enjoys at a different stage of the ripening process. Remember you can make delicious and healthy ice cream by chopping a sweet banana, freezing it, and blending.
Bell peppers are best stored in the refrigerator. I buy a variety of colors and feel for firmness before grabbing the ones I want. Fresh, firm bell peppers should last through a week. I wash them just before slicing. When making workweek salads, I slice them all on Sunday and place them in baggies with other chopped veggies and they stay fresh all week!
Blueberries are another one of those fruits that people have a big opinion on. I tend to buy them firm (and sour). I wash them right away and store them in an open bowl with a paper towel underneath.
Broccoli that is rinsed and chopped off of the bunch stores well in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel in it. The paper towel will soak up any excess water left after washing (don't forget to shake out of the head before chopping).
Carrots that aren’t stored in at least a little bit of water dry out really quickly and turn white. I generally buy the mini carrots because they already come in the bag ready to grab and eat and they’re the perfect size for cooking. I like the taste of full carrots better. I generally peel these a half a bunch at a time, wash them, chop them, then place them in a bag with a tiny bit of water to keep them from going dry.
Celery is a really dirty vegetable. I rinse and scrub celery stalks after cutting them from each other. I also cut the leafy part off. Celery stores well after cleaning when placed on a lightly damp paper towel and rolled up into tin foil to keep light out. I find that if I clean and chop my celery right away, it’s easy to grab and go (I add peanut butter or cream cheese to mine). If I don’t clean and chop it right away, it tends to get slimy and rot quickly in its bag.
Corn (on the cob)
I shuck corn on the cob right away, rinse it, then place it in the fridge on a plate until I’m ready to boil it. It stores well and for at least a week.
Whole cucumbers are finicky and bruise easily. I buy cucumbers, wash them right away, slice them up, and place them into easy grab and go zipper bags in the fridge.
I wash grapes by placing them in a bowl of water for a few minutes, then rinse them after. Surprisingly, there’s always a lot of dirt at the bottom of my grape-washing bowl. I then pluck the grapes off of their vines and place them on top of a dry paper towel in a bowl in the fridge. These usually last at least a week if my kids don’t gobble them all up first!
I keep fresh green beans in their bag from the store and rinse them right before chopping the ends off and boiling and cooking them. They usually keep well in their original bags before I’m ready to use them.
Lettuce, especially, is best when washed right before use. As stated earlier, I do wash my lettuce, dry it very well (it’s a process), and then portion it out into individual lunch containers (paper towels on top and on bottom - this is a MUST if prewashing your lettuce), then put the lid on tight. Doing this may seem like a pain, but I promise it’s worth it if you’re wanting to eat healthier lunches. Grab and go is always best on busy mornings! If it’s ready to go I’m a lot more likely to eat it. If it’s still sitting in the bag I bought it in, it will most likely go bad.
Onions store well for a long time just sitting on your counter. No need to wash before peeling, chopping, and cooking.
I love oranges because they are so easy to store and don’t rot quickly. I just place my oranges or easy-to-peel, seedless ‘cuties’ that my kids love, in a bowl on the counter.
Firm plums last a long time in the refrigerator. I just wash them like an apple right before enjoying them. I prefer my plums ripened and softer, so I tend to buy plums at different stages of ripening.
Potatoes (white and sweet)
Potatoes generally store for quite a while. They are ‘dirty’ vegetables so I always rinse and scrub them before peeling. As I peel them I place them in a bowl of water before slicing or boiling.
Raspberries go soft very quickly. I usually leave these in their container with the intention of eating them fairly quickly (within days of buying them). I rinse them right before eating.
Strawberries are another really dirty fruit. I soak my strawberries in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes before rinsing them. I’m always astonished at the dirt at the bottom of the bowl when I do this. After rinsing, I dry them with a towel, then place them in a flat bowl in the refrigerator on a paper towel. They last about a week when I do this...if they were really red and fresh when I bought them. I have found...the painful way because strawberries off-season can be so expensive...that leaving them in their container from the store causes them to start to rot more quickly and facilitates the spread of any mold that may be in there.
Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator or near any other fruit or veggies you’re trying to preserve. The acid from this fruit emits into the air and makes other produce ripen more quickly. I wash my tomatoes right in their container from the store (it’s made to be like an automatic strainer), then lay them on a small towel to dry. I store them in a bowl on the counter away from everything else.
Other helpful tips
Share a dish! If you find that you have an abundance of certain produce and know it will go bad quickly, make a dish. For example, a friend of mine at work was telling us about how her daughter wanted grapes for snacks, but she bought too many and they just weren’t getting eaten. So, she made a grape salad for our potluck that week.
There are also special ‘green’ bags you can buy at the store to help preserve your fruits and veggies. I have not tried any of these out yet, as I feel like I have a pretty good system for keeping my produce fresh. If you’ve used any of these bags, let me know if you think they’d help even more!
Making healthy food last longer
It is so important for those of us battling macular degeneration to eat healthy foods such as fruits and veggies. If we don’t prepare and store our fruits and veggies properly, this task can be difficult and expensive! Putting the work into your produce before eating it allows it to last longer. But if it’s ready to go and sitting in the fridge or on the counter, you’re more likely to eat it or cook with it.
Has an eye doctor ever left you feeling confused?