Monthly Archives: February 2016

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

A simple way to stay healthy and control weight is incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables. With this consideration in mind, many of us have the habit of buying too many fresh foods and stacking them. But, the unfortunate part is, they get spoiled and we don’t have another option except to throw them in the garbage bin. The same happens with harvested garden vegetables during the peak season. Hence, knowing a bit on how to preserve fruits and vegetables will go along way in enjoying healthy foods and keeping them fresh for longer days.

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly?

While storing fruits and vegetables, the two main factors that should be taken care of are temperature range and humidity level. But, which one is better, refrigerating them or keeping them on the kitchen countertop? The answer depends on what types of fruits and vegetables you are referring to. Some stay for a longer time in low temperature, thus requiring them to be stored in the refrigerator. On the contrary, other fruits and vegetables do well at room temperature.

Storing in the Refrigerator
Most of the fruits and vegetables can be stored directly in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator (within the temperature range 32-36° F), whereas some of them call for preparatory steps before refrigeration. In case of asparagus, the stalks are wrapped in a damp cotton cloth before cold storage. As for culinary herbs, they are allowed to stand in a glass of water, the top covered with a plastic bag, and then stored in the refrigerator.

Fruits suited for fridge storage: Figs, pomegranate, grapes, apples, mangoes, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, kiwis, peach, plum, pear and nectarines.

Vegetables suited for fridge storage: Artichoke, lettuce, mushroom, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, green onions, corn, lettuce, broccoli, peas, radishes, asparagus, leafy greens, beet, carrot, cabbage, leek, spinach and squash.

Storing on Countertop
This storage method is for fruits and vegetables that last long, when kept in the room temperature condition. Like for instance, tomatoes prefer warm temperature and if you happen to keep them in the refrigerator, they lose flavor and become mushy. So, keep them in room temperature, preferably in a plastic basket with the stalk facing upwards. In case of melon fruits, the flesh becomes slightly rubbery after storing in the fridge.

Fruits suited for countertop storage: Melon, orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, avocado, coconut, banana and apple.

Vegetables suited for countertop storage: Pumpkins, rutabaga, squash, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and pepper.

Combine Storage Method
Fruits that are usually bought at the unripe stage are ripened and kept in the fridge. For ripening, they are placed in room temperature condition of the countertop (away from direct sunlight) for 1-2 days. You can consume them at this stage. Or else, extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator. If you are interested in storing rhubarb, wrap it in a plastic bag and consider refrigeration.

Fruits that require ripening: Peach, pear, apricot, nectarine, mango, star fruit, cantaloupe, papaya, persimmon, plantain and avocado.

Keeping in Storage Cellar
Some of the root vegetables can be stored in the roof cellar for several months. They require dry condition, dark environment, cool temperature and ventilation. The storage cellar meets these basic conditions, thus serving as the best area for storing such vegetables. When exposed to warm temperature and light, the root veggies have a high chance of developing sprouts.

Vegetables suited for storing in root cellar: Potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, acorn squash, winter squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkin.

Basic Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables

While most fresh fruits and vegetables require a moist condition for storage, wet condition causes change in enzyme activity, texture, taste and flavor, resulting in rotting.
To store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, fill them in perforated plastic bags and keep them in the drawer.
Whenever possible, keep fruits and vegetables separately. Otherwise, they tend to pick up the flavor of vegetables, which reduce their palatability.
Some fruits can be stored in both cold and room temperature. Let’s take the example of apple, which you can store in the fridge or countertop.
In order to hasten the ripening process of fruits (e.g., avocado), you can use ripe fruits that produce ethylene in higher amounts (e.g., apple). To be precise, keep an apple with avocados in a paper bag for quick ripening.
To avoid over ripening effect, consider storing ripe fruits and vegetables separately from each other. Otherwise, they produce ethylene gas, which adds to food spoilage.
Always keep the root vegetables separate from each other. In other words, do not store onions and potatoes together in the storage cellar. Read more on methods of preserving food.

Whether you have purchased vegetables in stock from the local market or harvest from a garden in bulk, storing them properly is a must to extend their shelf life. As for berries and pineapple, they get spoiled very soon. So, enjoy them as soon as they turn ripe in order to obtain optimal nutrition. For both fruits and veggies, make it a point to consume old items first followed by the recently bought ones.

Chicken and Food Safety

Foodborne illnesses or food poisoning is one of the leading causes of illnesses and even deaths in many parts of the world. Most common cases are caused due to Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella bacteria that are found in birds, cattle, and poultry, respectively. Consumption of uncooked or raw chicken, contaminated by these bacteria, leads to food poisoning and related illnesses. This infection can be serious, and sometimes, even life-threatening if the person is already suffering from a poor state of health or a weakened immune system. Therefore, in order to avoid this, one should follow the food safety measures recommended by the health organizations.

Food Safety Issues With Chicken
You need to buy, store, handle, and cook with extra care to prevent contracting infections. Here are some measures to be followed.

Buying Chicken

Chicken should be cold to touch while purchasing.
When buying grocery, it is always better to buy chicken at the last.
One must check whether the chicken is packed properly, or use disposable bags to avoid contamination of other foods.
When buying ready-to-eat/cooked chicken dish, make sure it is fresh and hot.
It is not recommended to buy a stuffed chicken for later use as it has high chances of getting spoiled.
It is better to buy chicken products of the same (reliable) brand rather than using the trial-and-error methods.

Storing Chicken

Chicken bought from the market should be immediately stored in the refrigerator at 40 degree Fahrenheit or 4 degree Celsius.
It is advisable to check the expiry date of the product and use it within the estimated time.
Cooked chicken should be cut into pieces and stored in clean containers or disposable bags, and frozen at the aforementioned temperature.
It is better to avoid consuming freezer-burned chicken.
Frozen chicken should NEVER be defrosted at the normal room temperature, i.e., directly over the counter.
One should defrost chicken in the refrigerator, by placing it in cold water, or heating it in the microwave.

Cooking Chicken

One should use clean utensils while cooking frozen chicken to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Cook chicken up to the estimated time and or until it is no longer pink inside.
Actually, it is not essential to wash raw chicken. Food safety rules suggest that all the harmful bacteria get killed, in any case, on cooking at a higher temperature.
Chicken should be cooked separately and kept away from other raw foodstuffs or salads.
Frozen chicken should be immediately cooked after defrosting. Especially if it is defrosted in a microwave.
Do not store or freeze partially cooked chicken for later use as it may contain harmful bacteria.
If the chicken is freezer-burned, chop off the affected portions before cooking.
According to food safety rules, chicken, heated or cooked up to 165 degree Fahrenheit or 74 degree Celsius, is safe to consume.
Liquid marinade used for marinating chicken should be boiled before use. Also, it should not be stored and used again later.

Following these food safety measures and tips can help in prevention of infection to a great extent. Lastly, one should also remember to use separate cutlery and utensils for cutting, dressing, and cooking chicken to prevent contamination of other vegetarian or raw foodstuffs. Good luck!