Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Storing your produce

Guest post by
Bonnie Fox

From Farm to Fork!
Tips on storing and using your fresh produce.

Summer is here in her full glory and the farm is bursting forth with the absolute best local, organically grown produce. It is my favorite time of year!
Summer cooking is yummy, creative, extra healthy and oh so easy (QUICK!!!). With your weekly Hoople Creek CSA basket or your kitchen counter and fridge full of Hoople Creek produce from their Saturday Farm Gate Stand or their Sunday Lansdowne Park stand … all you need to do is prepare some fresh veggies and turn on the barbeque.
I work at the Hoople Creek stand on Sunday at Lansdowne Park. My favorite part of this job is talking to our customers! The two questions you ask the most are: How to properly store produce and how to prepare it.
I’d like to focus on your question about proper storage of our greens and do so in this guest blog. I hope you will ‘check in” weekly to our Facebook page, and see what we are chatting about … and of course, contribute to the conversation!
Back to the topic! How to store our greens to extend their life, taste and nutrition … and not end up at the end of the week with wilted yuck in your fridge drawer.

The steps are easy:
FIRST: Store your greens properly (specifics coming up!).
SECOND: Make a plan and sequence your meals around the shelf life of your greens. Salads earlier in the week; stir-fries later.
THIRD: Read our blog for tips and contribute!

To properly store our greens they have to be refrigerated and placed in some sort of container/plastic bag to prevent the fridge air from evaporating their moisture and wilting the leaves.
But before putting your greens in the fridge, you should prep them in ONE of the following ways:
Fast method: Add 2 or 3 paper towels to the plastic bag that we package the greens in.
Longer ‘shelf life’ method: Place a lightly dampened dishtowel or dry length of paper towel on the kitchen counter and spread a thin layer of the greens on the towel. Gently roll the towel (jelly roll style) with the greens on the inside and slip the “roll” in your plastic bag. I use the plastic bag we sold the greens in. The used paper towels can be composted.

Although you must protect your greens from dehydration wilting by putting them in a plastic bag etc., over time, the inside of the bag will develop condensation and the paper towels/slightly damp dish towel will absorb the condensation moisture and help prevent moisture rot.
Another important fact in pepping your greens for a long “shelf life” is to discard any leaves that are starting to spoil. 

Vegetables and fruits give off Ethylene gas which triggers other vegetables and fruits to ripen / wilt / rot faster. Because greens do give off small amounts of Ethylene gas even when fresh, I do NOT seal the plastic bags I store my greens in. I either leave the top of the bag open or gently fold the top over letting an escape route for the ethylene gas. For this reason, I don’t use a sealed plastic container to store my greens!
The last tip I’d like to make about using greens is that they are very tender and very fresh, unlike supermarket greens, which have been treated with chemicals and gases. I don’t recommend washing them again before storing. Wash and sort thru them a second time just before eating! Our greens are so fresh that multiple washings will just bruise and degrade the tender leaves.

Let me talk briefly about the second step in making your greens last: Make A Plan! By briefly focusing on your weekly supple of produce as you unpack and store it, your are guaranteeing that you will use it all. My greens always last at least one week when stored as described above, even the tender baby arugula, spinach and soft leafed lettuces. But it only makes sense, to eat the majority these delicious greens in the beginning of the week. Your more sturdy veggies can be grilled, sautéed or barbequed later in the week. If you won’t be eating all that you bought or received in you CSA basket, freeze the remainder of you produce (either separately or prepared in a favorite dish). One of my friends always has an “end of the week stir fry” on Saturday night which uses all remaining veggies. Sometimes this stir fry includes greens which makes a tasty/healthy topping for pizza!

Well, those are my tips … now it is your turn to share your tips!

Below is my family’s favorite salad dressing that works well on all of Hoople Creek’s salad greens, and our favorite arugula and kale salad recipes.

Bonnie’s and Alan’s Favorite Salad Dressing

1 large or 2 small Garlic Cloves, minced
Dijon mustard …………………………………1 Tbsp. 
Salt …………………………………………….To taste                
Pepper…………………………………………..To taste
Balsamic vinegar ………………………………1/3 cup
Olive oil ………………………………………..2/3 cup
1 tsp Sugar or Honey (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in bowl, electric mincer or other device and blend.  If using an electric mincer, it’s easier to mince the garlic cloves first with just the salt, but this is not a requirement!  (Note: By not adding olive oil last, it makes dissolving the Dijon mustard easier with just the vinegar.)  Once combined, whisk or mix in the olive oil.  Adjust future batches to taste by altering amount of sugar/sweetener, salt, pepper, etc.  This is a basic frame of reference.  Also, use white balsamic vinegar for lighter tasting dressing.

Summer Arugula and Peach Salad

Hoople Creek fresh arugula                                                 
Pecan or Walnuts ………………………………toasted
One or more sliced fresh peaches or pears               
Crumbled blue cheese …………………………1/2 cup
Cracked black pepper if desired

Wash and spin dry arugula. Add remaining ingredients. Dress with Bonnie’s and Alan’s Favorite Salad Dressing.

Bonnie’s Curly Kale Salad With Dressing

1 or 2 heads Hoople Creek curly kale torn to bite size pieces
Walnut pieces
Dried, pitted dates cut into pieces
Pecorino cheese grated ……………………….1/2 to 1 cup
Sweet fruits cut into bite size such as:                                               
Naval orange piece
Pomegranate seed
Sweet apple pieces

Bonnie’s Dressing:  whisk following ingredients together

 ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice        
1 Tbsp. (or more) grated lemon rind
¼ cup white vinegar                                                  
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup honey, or to taste
1 Tbsp. chopped onion or shallot                               
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil                                                                      
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
Salt and pepper                                                          
Chopped parsley

Other herbs to taste, such as oregano and tarragon (experiment!)