With the cost of food going up daily, it’s more important than ever to make sure we make the most of every mouthful of locally produced sustainable food. We’ve cast an eye over blogs from our members and checked out a few hints from top chefs to bring together a wealth of suggestions for how we can keep fruit and veg waste at an absolute minimum.
Regather, a Better Food Trader member and regional leader in Sheffield (featured last month), have these ideas from a recent blog about the cost of living crisis:
Prolong leafy veg life
“Lots of leafy stuff gets wasted in people’s fridges, because salad drawers don’t keep the produce moist enough. I’ve got a really big tupperware box and all my salad leaves, spinach, chard, kale and even pak choi go in there. Then leafy greens last 5 days, even longer.“
Move to collection
“Like a lot of families we’re feeling the pinch, but we really wanted to stay with Regather so we’ve started collecting our box. That way we save delivery costs and get to have a nice chat with people too.“
Save oven energy
“I often turn my oven off 10 minutes ahead of the cooking time end and just let the accumulated heat take care of the rest. Doing this throughout the year saves a lot of energy.”
The Community Farm
Favourite tricks from The Community Farm veg box scheme in Bristol include
Keep root veg muddy
It lasts longer than washed; standing wilted greens in water can revive them brilliantly; and potatoes and onions are best kept in the cupboard, but not together.
However you store them, greens will have the shortest life. Make use of them towards the start of the week and they’ll be at their most delicious and nutritious.
Recipes are often written assuming that all veg is available all year round, but greens and roots are often interchangeable in recipes. Play around with swaps and you might end up with some brilliant improvements.
Freeze whole and take them out when you need them. You can easily chop them up frozen and they don’t lose any of their heat.
Growing Communities in Hackney, North London have a whole bunch of information on how to store vegetables, with some handy charts showing the needs of specific vegetables and fruit.
Plastic bags are the best way to keep in moisture. Some of our greens come in plastic bags, so hold on to these and reuse them for other veg that prefer to be cold and moist. Or return them to us – clean please – for recycling.
If leafy greens go limp, spray with water or soak in a basin of cold water, then shake off excess water, put in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge. Or stand them with their stalks in a glass of water. They’ll perk right up within hours. This also works for asparagus, celery, broccoli, rhubarb and herbs.
Shipping fruit before it’s ripe makes it easier to transport and less liable to spoil or bruise. So you may need to ripen bananas, plums, peaches and other fruit by leaving them out on the counter top or on a sunny windowsill.
To speed up ripening: put the fruit in a closed paper bag at room temperature, ideally with a ripe banana, apple or pear. The ripe fruit produces ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.
To slow down ripening: keep your fruit separate from other ripe fruit and store it in the fridge.
Some veg can be frozen raw; others need to be blanched briefly before freezing. Wash veg thoroughly first and remember to label and date your items.
Blanching: submerge veg in boiling water for 1 to 3 minutes then plunge immediately into icy cold water. Pat dry and store in plastic bags, Tupperware or glass jars. Store in portion sizes so you can easily defrost the amount you need.
Unblanched freezing: this is the fastest, easiest method. Some unblanched, frozen vegetables can be stored for up to two months and maintain good colour, flavour and texture.
Freezing herbs: good for cooking but not suitable for salads as they go limp when thawed. Woody herbs: strip the leaves or keep sprigs whole. Pack in bags or jars. Softer leaves: chop and freeze in ice cube trays with a little water. Once frozen, you can take them out of the tray, store in a bag, and use a portion when needed for cooking.
Locavore in Glasgow have the following quick guide on how to keep your produce at its best:
- Leave the dirt on them until you need them, which helps retain moisture and keeps roots fresher for longer.
- Keep potatoes out of the fridge, but in a dark place to prevent them from turning green.
- A simple cotton produce bag works well to store root veg.
- Keep them moist! We pack leafy veg into bags to retain moisture. Keep them in the bags and refrigerate until you’re ready to use them.
- For herbs with longer stems such as rosemary or mint, you can pop them in a glass with water – trim the bottom of the stems first. This way, you can enjoy them in the kitchen rather than in the fridge!
- Other cut herbs benefit from being cool and moist, so keep them in their bags until use.
Root Veg with Leafy Tops
Chop the tops off and treat as two separate veg – a root and a leafy green. Store the root as above, and pop the leaves into a bag or tub in the fridge.
- Fruit tends to be harvested and transported in its unripe state, as it’s more resistant to damage, and to extend its shelf life. This means that sometimes you’ll receive unripe fruit. You can ripen fruit by popping them in a bowl with a banana, as bananas speed up the ripening of other produce.
- Putting fruit in the fridge will slow down the ripening process (be careful with the fruit listed below that shouldn’t go in the fridge).
Keep the following OUT of the fridge
Some fresh produce is damaged by cold temperatures, and it’s best to keep the following out of the fridge:
- citrus fruits (kiwi, lemons, limes, oranges etc.)
What the top chefs say…
Back in 2018 The Guardian ran an article about how top chefs run a zero waste kitchen, that’s even more relevant today. We’ve highlighted a few of their methods and tried some of them out with delicious results.
Chef Skye Gyngell of Spring, London, makes “a simple puree using potato peelings cooked in salted water with herb stalks, then pureed with butter, pepper and buttermilk” while Scott Smith of Fhior, Edinburgh, suggests drying vegetable peelings to make into flavoured salts used to season vegetables. He says “Put the peelings on a rack in a really low temperature, leave for three hours, blend in a processor and mix through sea salt.”
Mary Ellen-McTague, the Creameries and Real Junk Food, Manchester says you can pickle pretty much anything with a 3:2:1 mix of vinegar-water-sugar, whilst both Tim Bouget of ODE & Co, Devon and Tom Hunt eco-chef and co-owner of Poco, Bristol, keep lemon peels after squeezing the juice. Bouget says “dried fruit skins blitzed into a powder add an intense orange or lemon zest to cakes” and Hunt suggests that “once squeezed, good unwaxed lemons can be finely sliced, massaged with salt, packed in a jar and, after four days at room temperature, ferment into this lovely sour condiment. Use as a relish or in any dish to replace lemons”.