After a long winter, there are few things greater than the moment we see freshly picked vegetables start to show up at the Farmer's Market and grocery stores, or when our own gardens are reading for picking. Despite our best intentions, sometimes its difficult to know how to store and use our fresh vegetables in a way that keeps them fresh and prevents them from perishing.
Last summer I made a very conscious effort to avoid wasting anything that came in my bi-weekly CSA. I wasn't perfect and did waste a bit, but thanks to some of these tips below, I was able to enjoy most of what I received and what I bought.
Here are my tips for storing springtime vegetables
We're going to eat loads of greens starting in May, and we all know how quickly they can spoil overnight. There are a handful of suggested ways to store greens, and after trying many, my favourite is wrapping them in a damp tea towel and putting them in the crisper. I do this with lettuce greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, kale and spinach.
Two tips to keep your greens fresh:
Make sure your towels stay slightly damp. They shouldn't be dripping, but it helps the leaves if they stay slightly damp.
Keep your greens away from ethylene producing fruits and vegetables. Ethylene is a plant hormone whose purpose is mainly to naturally ripen fruit. Common ethylene emitting produce are apples, avocados, bananas, melons, peaches, pears and tomatoes.
One other way that I've tried is storing them upright in a jar or bowl filled with water. This kept my greens fresh, but takes up too much room in my fridge. I find the tea towel option to be the most space-efficient and easy.
Contrary to greens, I find that the jar of water method works really well for tender herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro or dill because they're much smaller.
To store herbs using this method, I typically snip of the bottom of the stems, then fill the jar with water and place the herbs in the jar like a bouquet of flowers. If the herbs are going in the refrigerator, its best to loosely wrap a plastic bag around the top to protect them.
Three tips to avoid herbs wilting or going bad
Know where to keep your herbs. Not all herbs should go in the fridge! Cilantro and dill can be kept in the fridge because they like cool temperatures, parsley can go either way and basil should be kept at room temperature - stil in the jar of water, but on the counter!
Make sure the leaves are dry. Wait until you're going to use them before cleaning, keeping them dry will prevent them from wilting or turning brown.
Change the water every few days. When the water is discoloured, that is your cue to change it!
Hard herbs, such as chives, rosemary, sage, thyme or oregano are kept fresh when stored in the fridge. I wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel or thin tea towel. (I use an old, cut up tank top and it works!) Arrange the herbs in a single layer on the towel and roll it up loosely. Once rolled up, put it in a sealable plastic bag.
We don't always think of radishes when we think of springtime vegetables, but they're often the first pop of colour we see at the farmers' markets in the end of May or in our first few CSA boxes. To keep radishes nice and crunchy, I once again turn to jars and water.
I start by cleaning them using a bristle brush to remove visible dirt. Then, I cut off the tops to make sure no leaves or roots remain. After that, I put them in a clean mason jar, fill the jar until the radishes are completely covered, seal the jar and put it in the fridge.
My only tip for this method is to make sure the jar is airtight. If you do this, your radishes can stay fresh for up to 10 days!
Green onions are the gift that keeps on giving. They're low maintenance and tougher than you'd imagine. To keep them fresh and growing, I put my green onions in a jar of water on the counter and watch them shoot up! I use scissors to chop of bits from the top whenever I need, and they grow back.
A few other options for green onions
If you don't eat that many, they can be kept in the jar in the fridge - the cold will keep them from growing too quickly.
If you have soil and a pot in which you could plant them, they're forgiving and easy to care for, making them a great plant for those like me who may not be the best with plants.
Here are some food waste reduction tips to keep in mind this spring!
Freeze your herbs in oil cubes to cook with later. If you're not going to use all your herbs, I highly recommend chopping them up and putting them in an ice-cube tray with the oil in which you'd normally cook them. I typically freeze mine with a dish in mind, two examples being cubes for roasted vegetables; combining olive oil with rosemary and thyme, or for pasta, combining olive oil with oregano and thinly cut basil.
Turn your greens into pesto. I make a ton of carrot top pesto and garlic scape pesto every Spring and Summer, and recently discovered this super easy Vegan Parsley Pesto. I love having fresh pesto pasta in the summer, but also freeze pesto in ice-cube trays to switch things up during the winter months.
Use extra dill and garlic scapes for pickling. I pickled radishes, cucumbers and many garlic scapes last year. They make for great (veggie) burger toppings, and as a satisfying, salty snack when its warm. Here is the recipe I used.