Each week during the CSA period we are lucky to receive a box of beautiful vegetables from the farm. Keeping them beautiful, however, can be a challenge! There are several factors at work which are responsible for the decline in quality of vegetables during storage.
Decay processes include enzymatic browning (also known as ‘oxidation’) of food, as well as bacterial and mold contamination and dehydration which are collectively known as ‘decomposition’. We can slow the process of decay with proper storage techniques, and through the practice of food preservation.
Food preservation techniques like pickling, dehydrating, and canning are outside the scope of this article but rather we will look at ways to keep the raw ingredients in your CSA share fresh. The first consideration in keeping vegetables fresh is timeliness. It’s important to get your vegetables home immediately to process them and keep them fresh. Once home, unpack your CSA share and look at each of the items you have received. First ask, “Which items require refrigeration?” The answer is likely to be everything except tomatoes.
Once you’ve placed your tomatoes on the counter the next question is how to package the remaining vegetables for storage. It’s important to keep the vegetables from drying out or wilting with a breathable but covered container and cold temperatures. Plastic bags don’t breathe, and refrigerator vegetable drawers don’t provide protection between vegetables of different ages. Modern storage options are available that provide optimal conditions for your vegetables in the refrigerator.
We recommend “Prepworks” produce keepers. The Elkstone chef uses these at home, and when used properly they will add weeks (!) to the life of your vegetables. Some options include reservoirs in the base to maintain humidity, but all include instructions for the optimal storage of various types of vegetables. These containers keep the vegetables away from the bottom and sides of the container and allow the circulation of air. The key to success even with a vegetable keeper product like these is to store your vegetables immediately upon returning from the farm stand. Freshness doesn’t work in reverse. You cannot regain what you have lost - you can only preserve what you have - and that requires expediency when it comes to refrigeration. You can find a specialized container for herbs HERE and containers for vegetablesHERE
We hope you enjoy the bounty of your CSA harvest and get to enjoy it when the time is right for you, when it will be as fresh as the day you picked it up if you follow these instructions. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you at the farm stand!