You work hard in your garden all summer to grow your fruits, veggies and herbs-don't let them go to waste by not taking care of the finished product. We've come up with six ways to get the most out of the fruits of your labor:
1. Harvest at the right time- Picking herbs, fruits and veggies at the right time of the season is the key to keeping them fresh. The best time of year depends on your zone and variety of crops. Formost, harvesting just before peak ripeness is
ideal for preventing over-ripeness and rot.
Harvesting is best done either early in the morning or later in the evening to keep yourself and your crops cool. After picking, most crops should be taken out of direct sunlight to avoid wilting. It can be helpful to bring bunches indoors every so often to give you and your crops a break from the sun and heat.
2 2. Don't wash your harvest immediately- It's tempting to get everything inside and immediately give it a quick rinse to clean them, but don't! Moisture promotes bacteria growth, which speeds up the decomposition process. Instead of washing or rinsing, brushing soil off as you pick can keep your kitchen clean while keeping everything fresh. If you can't resist rinsing, make sure to dry crops thoroughly before storing to avoid bacteria growth.
3 3. Store fresh crops properly- How you store your fruits and vegetables is the most important factor in how long they will keep. While there are some general guidelines to keeping things fresh, within the same type of crop every species is a little different so it may take some trial and error to perfect the process. Some general rules for the most common types are:
Tomatoes: Do not refrigerate tomatoes. Rather, leave them on the kitchen counter in the open air to breathe.
Potatoes: Leave potatoes in the sun to dry, then brush off all of the dirt and soil (to prevent molding). Store in a cool, dark and dry place like a cupboard or dry basement until ready to use.
Carrots: Carrots are similar to potatoes in needing to be stored in a cool, dark and dry area after being dried out. Just don't leave them out in the sun after uprooting because they have a thinner skin than potatoes.
Garlic & Onions: Store in a cool, dark and airy place like a cupboard. Make sure they are thoroughly dried and the stems are cut off before storage.
Zucchini & Cucumbers: Both zucchini and cucumbers store better in the refrigerator than at room temperature. Just be sure to dry their skin thoroughly as moisture can cause decay quickly on these crops.
Pumpkins & Squashes: Pumpkins and squash vary greatly by species, but can generally last up to several months if properly stored in a dark and dry environment. Before storage, make sure that all moisture is removed from the skin and wipe away any dirt that can contain additional moisture.
Berries: Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries should be sealed in an airtight container and left in the refrigerator. Berries keep better in shallow containers with fewer layers to avoid crushing the delicate fruits. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container to absorb any moisture that may drip.
Leafy Greens: Spinach, lettuce and kale are best harvested as needed as they only keep for a few days before wilting. When they are harvested, they should be kept in a humid veggie drawer in the refrigerator.
Herbs: Herbs can be stored for up to 10 days, just put the stems in a glass of water like a bouquet of flowers, and wrap the exposed leaves in plastic wrap. While most herbs should be placed in the refrigerator for maximum longevity, cold sensitive herbs like basil should be left at room temperature.
4 4. Seal in the freshness- Vacuum Sealing can keep almost anything fresh for longer. By eliminating oxygen flow around your food, decomposition and bacteria growth slow. Just ensure that everything is dry before sealing to reduce bacteria that thrive in moisture. Vacuum Sealing can also eliminate freezer burn if you're freezing your fresh crops.
5 5. Know when your crops are no longer safe- While it's tempting to save your crops for as long as possible, take care to know when they have run their course. Produce can grow and harbor bacteria that can reduce quality and make you sick. Signs to look for include sliminess, mold, discoloration and signs of rot. If your crops are showing these signs, throw them out or compost them to avoid illness.
6 6. Take care in your preparation?- You've worked hard to grow and care for your crops, so see the process through. Wash them thoroughly just before use to ensure any chemicals used in the Dehydration. Home dehydrated goods are more nutritious and flavorful than store-bought and make a great snack or dessert. A combination of Dehydrating and Vacuum Sealing can help your hard work last through the winter months. growing process are removed. One healthy and delicious way to prepare your home-grown produce is