Summer cooking tips – how to make your vegetables last longer

When it comes to single living, the one thing that I have a hard time with is keeping fruits and vegetables fresh. Sometimes I buy too much with my grocery order.

I always feel guilty if I let food go bad and am looking for innovative ways to make these foods last longer. I’ve learned some helpful tips along the way from various sources, and thought I’d share them with you.


Green onions (scallions)

Green onions are my go-to staple ingredient for most of my recipes. I love how versatile they are. Onions in general are inexpensive where I live – about $0.89 for one bunch. I usually get two with my weekly grocery order and use them up pretty fast. They’re also less messy and take less work to prepare. The other bonus is – no tears!

Here’s a trick I learned to make your green or “spring” onions last longer:

  • Get a tall glass or clean vase
  • Add in a couple of inches of water
  • Place the green onions in the glass – green stems facing up
  • Cover the stems with a plastic bag
  • Tie an elastic around the plastic bag
  • Store in the fridge

You can also regrow green onions from home. Cut the white ends (about an inch or two long) off and store in a glass or vase with cold water. Place in a sunny spot in your kitchen. No dirt required.

I haven’t tried this with leeks yet – I’ll have to give that a go next time I buy groceries.


Leafy Greens

If you’re like me and you love cooking with kale and spinach, then making sure your leafy greens stay fresh for as long as possible is crucial The moment I come home from the store, I unpack all my food and wash the vegetables. Here are some tips for kale and spinach pre-prep.

This will also save you time when it comes to preparing your ingredients for cooking during the week. I use a variety of colanders for washing fruits and vegetables. These are a life saver when it comes to “massaging” kale.

Kale

  • Remove the kale from the stems and tear gently into smaller pieces (bite size pieces work for me). Toss the stems into the garbage or compost.
  • Place the kale in a colander and rinse with cold water. While rinsing, massage the kale gently (like a scalp massage) until the kale is nice and tender.
  • Leave the kale in the colander until it completely dries – this may take a few hours or use a salad spinner if you have one.
  • Store kale in glass or Rubbermaid container. This will keep your kale fresh for about a week.
  • Freezing kale – you can freeze kale, however, I’d suggest just buying frozen kale instead of fresh. When you defrost the kale, it will turn mushy and lose some of its flavour.

You can add spices to the kale before you store it, but I suggest waiting until you are ready to use it to maximum the flavour. Using too much oil for example, can leave your kale soggy – and it can go bad or turn yellow fast.

Massaged Kale with Fennel Salad — Kylene Terhune FDN
Google images

Spinach or Spinach Mixes

For spinach, I tend to buy pre-packaged spinach that comes with a variety of mixes. Here in Alberta, you can get President’s Choice spinach packages – I love the kale, chard and spinach salad mix. I’ve also tried the Arugula Spinach blends and Baby Spinach and Tender Red Lettuce blends – they are all delicious.

Baby Spinach And Tender Red Lettuce

Even though the spinach may be pre-washed, I always take the spinach out of the plastic containers and wash them myself. Especially right now with COVID, for peace of mind. I’ve also found insects and dirt before in organic bunches. This is why washing your vegetables with water is important.

  • Place the spinach into a large colander and place in your sink.
  • Rinse well with cold water.
  • Let the spinach dry or use a salad spinner – you can also wipe off with paper towel but I find this to be wasteful.
  • Store in glass containers or Rubbermaid containers.

I’m always looking for ways to be conservative or environmentally friendly. I am toying with the idea of buying a small compost but fruit flies are a real problem where I live and I don’t want to attract more of them since I live in a condo building.

If I buy pre-packaged vegetables, I do practice recycling on a weekly basis. If you don’t want to invest in plastic food containers, there are plenty of options for glass storage containers that you can buy on Amazon or Walmart – or your local grocery store like Superstore.


Carrots, zucchini, cucumber

I am so bad for buying carrots and then not using them in my cooking. Carrots dry out very quickly and are hard to keep. I was buying the smaller baby carrots for a awhile. But I found I only ate a few of them and wound up tossing the rest in the garbage.

In an attempt to reduce the amount of waste I produce, I’ve started buying frozen carrots as an alternative. They are just as healthy, and sometimes cheaper – especially in winter months. The same goes for corn and green beans, beets and Brussel sprouts – frozen vegetables have come a long way.

Whole Baby Carrots
sorry for the blurry images, they are small

Zucchini, Cucumbers, Squash

For cucumbers, I tend to leave in the original saran wrap until I’m ready to use them. Cucumbers do not last very long and are difficult to keep for more than a week. I will use them up within a few days for a tomato salad or cucumber sandwiches. For this reason, cucumbers are an occasional treat. Today for example, I’m going to make a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Delicious, low carb, healthy.

Zucchinis are similar to cucumbers. But if you wash them when you bring them home from the store, cut them into halves or slices – you can store them in a glass container for about a week.

I find that cucumbers and zucchinis don’t do well in the freezer. What I will do is batch cook and freeze the leftovers instead for later use.

Easy Sautéed Keto Crispy Zucchini Recipe - How to Make Sautéed ...
From Good Housekeeping

If you are a gardener, and have some room in your yard – zucchinis are pretty easy to grow. I love it when harvest time comes – a lot of my friends are gardeners or farmers and will bring buckets of goodies to the church to share with us.


Tomatoes

Instead of using vine tomatoes, I’ve switched to using grape tomatoes for my weekly recipes. I find they last a little longer – over a week if stored properly. These tomatoes are also great for making your own sauces and soups.

I wash the grape tomatoes as soon as I get home and place them into a container and into the fridge it goes. I go through tomatoes pretty fast as I use them in most of my recipes these days. Longevity for tomatoes, is never an issue in my home.

Tomatoes are super easy to grow and can even be grown right on your balcony if you’re an apartment dweller like I am. There are plenty of great tutorials on youtube that you can check out on how to grow your own balcony vegetables.


Potatoes

Potatoes – that’s another vegetable I’m really bad for buying and forgetting about. I always forget about the drawer at the bottom of the fridge that keeps your vegetables fresh.

Did you know that if you leave your potatoes sitting too long, they can grow like aliens? It’s true. I stopped buying potatoes because of that for a while!

I’ve read some heavy debates online for potatoes on how to best store your potatoes. It seems that the majority of people suggest storing your potatoes at room temperature or in a dark and cool place like a cellar.

Of course, apartment dwellers don’t have this option. Some people opt to store their potatoes in a bag or sack under their sink or in a drawer or pantry.

Just make sure the sack is tied up pretty tight. The last thing you want is bugs or rodents crawling into your food.

The great thing about reusable sacks is they are environmentally friendly.

The Sack of Potatoes | AllWorship.com
Allworship.com

Mushrooms

I love my mushrooms. Crimini, white, bell or portobello mushrooms – they’re all good! I use them often in recipes and go through about 0.5 kb of mushrooms weekly. If I had a garden, this would be the one thing I’d grow most.

With mushrooms and any vegetable that grows in dirt, you have to be careful to wash carefully with water. I spend the most time with mushrooms as it can be difficult to see dirt trapped underneath.

What I’ve started doing lately, is removing the stems while washing them. This way I can clean the dirt out completely. If you’re conserving water, then you can use a paper towel or your fingers to wipe away the dirt.

Once the stem is removed and the mushrooms are dry, I move them to a container and place in the fridge. This keeps them fresh about 5-6 days.

Mushrooms will start to smell funky when they go bad – use your nose to judge whether to use them or not.

gluckspilze.com/media/image/product/1062/lg/but...
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Hope you enjoyed this post on how to store your vegetables for longevity. My problem is going through fresh vegetables so fast these days with summer cooking.

What tips have you learned for your climate? Let me know in the comments!


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