We all know that it’s important to eat our veggies - at least five servings a day, to ward off cancer, improve our cholesterol levels, feel less moody, and stay as healthy as we can. But few things will do more (overcooking, perhaps) to put us off this important food group than vegetables that are not at their best; either because they were purchased in bad condition or were not properly handled nor stored.
How can you tell if produce is fresh? Here are some easy to remember tips:
How to choose: Choose vegetables for vibrant color, cleanliness, smoothness in the skins and few or no blemishes. Vegetables do not age well, so avoid those that have wilted, flowered, or have dark or soft spots. Skins should be smooth and without wrinkles (except things like natural ridges in squash) and the colors of all skins should be vibrant. There should be no mold, no cracks or tears, and no dark spots. To get the best value for your dollar, purchase only what you can eat for three or four days and always remember to buy what’s in season and what's local as best you can!
At home storage tips: Use greens-keeper bags (available in produce sections) rather than plastic bags or brown bags, which can keep moisture in and speed up the time for wilting and rotting. Another technique is to wrap veggies in paper towels and store them in airtight plastic containers, or perorated plastic bags. Tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes are best kept on the counter, but for everything else, store in the refrigerator.
Wash your vegetables only before using, not ahead of time, to avoid wilting, mold and early spoilage. To clean, hold vegetables under cold running water or soak them in cold water, then remove wax, dirt, bugs and, other residues, with a produce brush, which you can usually find in the produce department of your local supermarket. Pre-packaged salad greens do not usually need another rinsing, but check them over carefully to be sure. If you do end up re-rinsing, use a salad spinner to get all of the extra moisture out. Pre-packaged crudités do not need additional washing.
Mushrooms should not be soaked in water; instead, lightly brush off the dirt with a soft-bristle brush or damp paper towel.
A general rule of thumb, if you are going to eat the skin, and not use a peeler, you should give it a good washing. If it seems extra dirty use a produce brush and veggie wash.