Greetings, Conscientious Food Consumers!
It’s “chillin’ time” — mid-summer — here in the Mid-Willamette Valley. We endured a heat wave in late July with near-triple-digits, while our gardens and markets were bursting with colorful varieties of seasonal produce. Now the challenge is on: getting it all harvested, properly stored, processed, prepared and onto our plates before too much of it ends up in the compost!
Despite our best intentions, fruit and vegetables are still the most common foods that end up going to waste. We can be more proactive about waste prevention right after the produce enters our homes, by taking the time to
- properly store it in the right places, and
- do some prep and processing so it’s ready to be cooked and/or consumed.
You’ll be delighted by the convenience and cost savings these habits can deliver for you and your family!
To support this process, No Food Left Behind (NFLB) offers the A-Z Fruit & Vegetable Storage Guide. for preserving the “fresh factor” of your summer produce. For example: fresh basil leaves will turn black if subjected to refrigeration. Keep bunches of basil green and fragrant by storing them in a cup of water on the kitchen counter, with an optional plastic bag “tent” over the top to keep them moist.
Prep Now, Eat Later: Clean and prepare your produce for upcoming meals and snacks before they go into the different “chill” areas of your fridge — and you’ll see how quickly they tend to get used up and eaten! A batch of carrot and celery sticks, stored in a tall glass of water on the fridge shelf, makes it very easy to grab a healthy snack throughout the week.
Blanch before freezing: Some fruits and most veggies will need more prep before going into the freezer, through a pre-cooking/cooling process known as “blanching.” This easy process helps preserve the flavor, vitamins and colors of your produce — though it requires some careful attention. You can get the details on this process from OSU’s Extension Service, a quick Web search, or a thumb-through of your favorite cookbook!
Don’t overload your freezer. The “chill” needs to have some space to circulate around your stored items. Be sure to check this Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart for recommended time limits.
Food safety questions? Just call OSU’s Extension Service’s Food Safety and Preservation toll-free hotline at 800-354-7319, staffed by certified Master Food Preserver volunteers, Monday – Friday between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through October 9, 2020.
What’s in your freezer? Don’t freeze it and forget it!
JEANETTE keeps track with NFLB’s handy-dandy Freezer Inventory Guide. It works best when combined with NFLB’s other “Smart Strategies” to help you plan more, waste less and save more money.
This week’s Kitchen Confession:
With peak veggie/salad season underway, I picked up some cilantro-based salad dressing from the refrigerator case at my local store. After I got home, I left the bottle on the kitchen counter, anticipating using it on a salad with my evening meal. (Typically I use dressings that don’t need refrigerating until after the bottle has been opened.)
Tragically, I neglected to READ THE LABEL specifying that refrigeration was always required. The salad did not happen that evening after all, but the bottle remained on my kitchen counter. Two days later, the magic of organic compounds fermenting had burst the lid, and the dressing was ruined.
$$ WASTED: $3.49
LESSON LEARNED: Read product labels! Make a note on my “Smart Shopping List” next time I’m looking for a new salad dressing.
NATIONAL FARMER’S MARKET WEEK: AUGUST 2-8, 2020
Whether you do your own garden and harvesting or not, let’s not forget the valuable labor of the farm workers who bring the bounty of the fields and greenhouses to our grocery stores and markets. Hooray for the harvesters! You can celebrate these essential workers and Oregon’s direct-to-customer growers August 2-8, National Farmer’s Market Week.
We are now tabling at the Corvallis Southtown Farm Stand & Market from 5-7pm on Tuesdays through October. If you haven’t done so already, check out this charming neighborhood-style market at the dead end of SE Alexander Avenue, and stop by to say hello!