All summer long, local producers offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables . . . and what a treat to fill our plates with them! One of the best ways to fully savour their freshness and benefit from all the vitamins and minerals they have to offer is to consume them raw. And to honour all the delicious products from here (and abroad), it’s important to store them the right way and know how to use everything, from stem to leaf!
Use your crisper drawerThere’s a reason refrigerators come equipped with crisper drawers. Not only do they prevent you from storing your apples, lettuce, celery, etc. in the back of your fridge (where they risk freezing), crisper drawers also allow you to isolate fruits that give off ethylene. Ethylene is a gas that helps ripen fruits such as pears, apricots, peaches, plums, and avocados post harvest. Certain vegetables are sensitive to this gas, which can cause them to wilt faster. Some vegetables to keep as far away from climacteric fruits (those that give off high levels of ethylene) as possible include broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and lettuce.
In the fridge, store…… asparagus (keep them bunched together and wrap the base with a wet paper-towel or cloth), leaf-stock carrots, celery, mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, fresh spinach (to be consumed quickly, as it starts to wilt within 3 or 4 days), fresh beets, beans, peppers, lettuce, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries), and fresh herbs (wash them right before use, otherwise they wilt quickly when humid).
And on the counter, keep your…… tomatoes, onions, garlic, potatoes, bananas, pineapple, mangoes, and other exotic fruit, for optimal preservation, texture, and flavour.
Use your cellar!If you have a cellar, use it to store vegetables that prefer cooler temperatures (around 12°C), such as tomatoes, maincrop carrots, endives, eggplants, and leeks.
No room in the fridge? Use your freezer!To avoid food waste, freeze any extra fruits and vegetables that may not be consumed before losing their freshness. Freezing fruit is simple! Peel them (or rinse any that don’t need to be peeled), pat them dry, and lay them on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer for 2 or 3 hours, then transfer the fruit to a freezer bag, that way they won’t clump together. Vegetables should be blanched first to preserve their colour, texture, and flavour (with the exception of peppers, leeks, and mushrooms). To do so, chop them and plunge them into boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes. Next, plunge them in ice water for a few minutes to halt the cooking process. Pat them dry and pop them in your freezer. You can also pre-freeze them on a baking sheet like your fruit. Another great anti-waste tip is to keep your vegetable leaves to eat as-is (think beets and turnips), or use them as fresh herbs (think carrots and celery).
A change from your regular old crudité platterSeveral vegetables deserve to be eaten raw, as that’s the best way to fully benefit from their vitamins and minerals. So, it’s always a good idea to find innovative new ways to enjoy raw veggies, such as red peppers, onions, garlic, and kale. Here is some inspiration for switching things up from your regular crudité-and-dip platter.
- Vegetable roll-ups made with zucchini
- Carpaccio (made with beets, radishes, zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.)
- Vegetable juice
- Julienned vegetable salad
- Spirals (for example: asparagus spirals with lemon sauce)
- Pickled raw vegetables
- Spring rolls