Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nine Things to Consider When Storing Organic Food

An interesting  thing happens when foods aren’t laden with artificial preservatives or any unnecessary processing.

And that thing is they don’t last as long as less natural options.

Add to that the fact that organic foods tend to be more expensive, and any spoilage can be very costly. So considering all this, here are some things to keep in mind when storing your organic foods.

Produce (Photo credit: La Grande Farmers' Market)
1. Buy produce in season. Out of season fruits and vegetables generally have a longer travel time, so that can reduce the amount of time you’ll be able to keep them before they spoil. Local produce is also often cheaper and it helps ensure maximum nutrient content. When produce is shipped long distances, it is often harvested just a little earlier than it normally should be. In the winter, seasonal produce tends to keep a long time - things such as beets, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, rutabagas, apples, etc. will usually keep for months if properly stored. If you're growing these things yourself, all the better!

2. Wash your produce. Never assume that the lack of pesticides means produce doesn’t need to be washed. Dirt can still have bacteria and other harmful substances.

3. Whole fruits and vegetables can be stored in the usual manner. Use your crisper or storage containers in your fridge. Of course, some produce like bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes and onions shouldn’t be refrigerated. If you cut up any fruits or vegetables, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator - they will only keep for a couple of days this way, but the convenience of eating will likely cause you to eat them up sooner anyway.

5.  Store grains like flour and pasta in airtight containers. It will keep longer if you store in the fridge (up to 6 months) and even longer in the freezer (up to 1 year).

6. Fresh meat and poultry needs to be used fairly quickly. Large cuts last up to 4 days; items like steaks, chops and chicken pieces last up to 3 days; and ground meats should be used within a day or two.

7. Freeze meats that won’t be used right away. Do the same for excess fruits and vegetables you won’t be able to use. Make sure all products you freeze are in airtight packaging. When using storage containers, make sure to fill them as full as possible, so buy a variety of sizes for best results. Any extra air in your container can contribute to freezer burn. Ziploc freezer bags can be great to have on hand - it is easy to squeeze the air out of them, and they come in a variety of handy sizes.

My tomato-canning endeavors from 2012!
8. Canning is another possibility for organic produce. You can create jams, pickle a variety of items, make compotes, can fruits and vegetables in water and more. Of course, do note that the high temperatures in canning can affect the nutritional quality of your produce. But in general, home-canned produce will have a much fresher taste than any canned goods you could buy at the store. I love canning tomatoes, and I do some every summer - it's really easy, and having my own fresh-tasting, bright and lovely tomato sauce in the dead of winter is wonderful!

9. Dehydrating food can also help with preservation and can be used in a variety of ways. Dehydrated fruits make a great on-the-road snack, instead of processed food items. In addition, dehydrated produce is excellent for emergency kits, camping trips and more.

However, you store your food, include a date on foods you store. This will give you an idea of when foods might spoil and which items should be used first. 

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