What’s in your share?
Red Bunching Onions
As we start moving towards fall, the time comes to start thinking about how we can eat a local diet all year long. As Wisconsinites, this may seem like a difficult task, but with thoughtful planning and some knowledge of how to best preserve crops, we can extend the harvest to last until the first spring vegetables are ready to harvest!
Many of the crops that we grow have a surprisingly long shelf life. But the key to preserving the life of the vegetables is all about how they are stored. This process starts in the field. On each harvest day, we begin harvesting early in the morning, before the sun gets hot. Harvesting when the cool morning dew is still on the plants helps them stay crisp and fresh as they make their way to your table. When a vegetable is harvested, it is full of what we call “field heat”. When a plant is no longer connected to the soil, the field heat needs to be removed quickly. Immediately after harvesting, we submerge, soak, or spray the crops with our cold well water to release field heat. We then put the crates of harvested vegetables in our walk-in cooler, and return to the field to harvest everything on the list for that day.
We take a great deal of time making sure that your produce comes to you as clean as possible. This is not only to provide you with a clean and tidy box, but thoroughly cleaning each crop with very cold water helps to keep the veggies as fresh as possible. As we hand the them over to you, we wanted to provide some tips for keeping their vitality as long as possible.
Roots (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi-even though it is not a root):
Remove greens. The root is the energy source of the whole plant, and even though we like to include the greens attached, the greens draw nutrients from the roots as they store. Keep roots in a closed container in the fridge. (Plastic bags work too) Roots like a humid environment, and will keep for 4-6 months if stored correctly.
Beans and Peas:
Store in a closed container or plastic bag in fridge, they will keep for 1-2 weeks. To extend the harvest, blanch and freeze in airtight plastic bags.
Tomatoes taste best when they are stored out of the fridge. Depending on their ripeness, they will last about 1-2 weeks. To extend the harvest, freeze whole or can.
Fruits (peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini):
Even though most refrigerators are a few degrees colder than the ideal temperature for these crops, we find that these veggies stay crisper inside the fridge inside a closed container or plastic bag, rather than out on the counter. To extend the harvest, blanch and freeze. (Don’t freeze cucumbers; ferment or pickle them!)
Greens (head lettuce, spinach, salad mix, arugula, kale, chard, turnip and beet greens, endive):
Store in a closed container or in a plastic bag in the fridge. Some folks line a container with a damp tea towel or cloth napkin and put greens inside with a lid. Keeping these greens closed off from the dry air in the fridge can make them last for longer than a week. To extend the harvest, blanch and freeze. (Lettuce, salad mix, endive, and arugula do not freeze well and are grown to be eaten fresh.)
Store in fridge. To extend the harvest, freeze whole or chopped in an airtight plastic bag.
Store outside of fridge, away from direct sunlight with good ventilation. Storage onions can last for 4-6 months. Yellow onions tend to have a higher water content, making them sweeter tasting and great for cooking, but have a shorter shelf life because of this. Red onions tend to be more pungent and less watery, making them great for eating raw or cooking, and have a longer shelf life than yellow onions. Store onions away from potatoes and apples.
Store outside of fridge, in a cool, dark place, away from onions. Potatoes produce ethylene gas*, a natural hormone that is released by many fruits and vegetables. This causes other vegetables to prematurely ripen. Potatoes can last 3-5 months stored this way.
Store in fridge in an airtight container or plastic bag. Basil stores well at warmer temperatures, too. Depending on the season and variety of your basil, it can be sensitive to the cold fridge, and turn black. Alternatively, you can line a container with a damp tea towel or cloth napkin and put the basil inside with an airtight lid for storage outside of the fridge. To extend the harvest, make pesto and freeze in glass jars.
*Ethylene gas is also used in tomato shipping trucks to artificially ripen green tomatoes harvested in other countries while they are being shipped long distances, so that they can last weeks in trucks without rotting. Yikes! A farmer’s market in North Carolina made a note of this on their blog a couple years ago.