How to Manage Your Summer Produce

A few tricks and tips can help you make the most of your farm share or farmer’s market haul!

Produce

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The summer harvest season is upon us! Whether you’ve joined a CSA or just like to hit the farmer’s market, store your veggies properly to help them last and avoid waste. Also, you’ll be more inclined to use your vegetables if you can just pull them out of the fridge and have them ready to toss as a salad, throw into a skillet, or place on the grill.

Salad Greens and Herbs

A salad spinner is going to become your most valuable kitchen tool. Dedicte some time the day you pick up your produce, or else the very next day, to tending your greens. If your lettuces, arugula, and the like arrived bagged (as opposed to on stems, sometimes with roots attached), wash and spin them dry as soon as possible. When you wash your other greens (can be the day you use them, as they can last longer in the crisper without being washed), separate leaves at the base. Rinse heavy dirt off base stems, then submerge leaves in a bowl water and swish. Lift leaves out of the water into the strainer of your salad spinner. If the water is dirty, buggy, or has sand at the bottom, rinse the bowl, add new water, and repeat. Once you lift leaves out of relatively clean water (it might take 3-4 washes), spin them dry in the salad spinner (or, OK, put them into a clean pillowcase and whirl it around over your head, Julia Child-style, which is a lot more fun than the staid salad spinner, though less efficient). Then store them in a large sealed tub or plastic bag—ideally, lined with a cotton or paper towel—until ready for use.

Herbs can be kept in a jar of water for a few days if you change the water daily.

Sturdy Greens

Collards, kale, Swiss chard, you name it, it’s growing and available this summer. If you don’t wash these immediately, that’s fine, but don’t let them turn old and yellow in the crisper drawer. For kale, hold the stem and pull off the leaves. For chard or collards or beet greens, angle-cut the stems (and save them), then wash the leaves. Wash hardy green leaves the same way you do lettuces (swish in a bowl of water, lift the leaves out, repeat until the water is pretty clean, then spin the leaves dry). Wash chard and collard stems and cut them into one-inch pieces; discard kale stems. Store cut stems separately from the leaves (they take longer to cook).

Berries and Fruit

Don’t wash berries such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries until you are about to use them. Otherwise, they will get moldy. If you simply must wash them and not use them immediately, spread them in a single layer on a cotton or paper towel, then gently roll up the towel and place it in a plastic container or bag in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

Roots

Keep the dry and cool. Potatoes and onions stay out of the fridge (and out of sunlight) (unless you have spring onions, or little red salad onions, or beautiful sweet Walla Wallas). Beets, turnips, and other roots should stay in the fridge. Don’t clean them until you are ready to use them. Same with carrots. You won’t even need to peel the carrots, most likely. When you do wash the roots, rinse in cool water and use a vegetable scrub brush.

If the beets come with greens attached—turnips, beets—cut the stems from the roots. Wash the greens as described above. Store the unwashed roots separately.

Miscellaneous

Not sure what to do with garlic scapes? Rinse, chop, then throw them into the blender with olive oil and a touch of salt. Freeze the puree in ice cube trays for a tasty addition to grains and sauces or a base for sautéing leafy greens. For other vegetables, such as peppers or cauliflower, don’t wash or cut until ready to use. Keep corn in its husk until ready to use.

Keep your produce cool, keep it dry, and keep it as fresh as possible. Though your CSA produce might last longer than standard grocery-store produce (because it’s fresher), use it soon. Don’t let your greens turn yellow. Eat them now.

 

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