How to Keep Berries (and Other Produce) Fresh

The tendency for most of us is to keep produce in the bags or containers in which we bring them home from the market. I mean, who wants to fuss with fruits and vegetables when they’re ready to be put away, right? Over the years, all I did was transfer produce from shopping bag to fridge and hoped for the best. Many of you can relate to this: after a while, things started to spoil, sometimes pretty quickly. I’ve had to throw away my share of produce that simply became, as they say, a science experiment on the many forms that mold can take. There had to be a better solution. I buy groceries pretty much once a week, so any technique for extending the lives of fruits and vegetables would be welcome. I hadn’t intended for this blog to feature tips for the kitchen. But since I already did one on making cilantro last longer, I had to pass along another one, namely, how to keep berries fresh longer. I also advance a generalization.

I read somewhere that glass jars do wonders for prolonging the lives of produce. One big problem is space if we were to transfer everything botanical to glass containers. This is something you’ll have to weigh on your own. Luckily for me, I had all these Mason jars lying around from the days I used to can fruits and jams. Would they serve me now? It turned out, yes indeed, they would.

Here is a surefire way to keep berries longer in the refrigerator. Toss out fruit that already shows signs of rot or mold, are bruised or past their prime. Place unwashed berries (and unstemmed, in the case of strawberries) in glass jars. Rinsing berries beforehand will hasten spoilage. I primarily use different size Mason jars or Luminarc jars with snap-on plastic lids, depending on the space the fruit needs. Any glass jar with a lid will do though. Using this method, you’ll be amazed at how much longer berries last.

This tip doesn’t only apply to berries. After being dissatisfied with wrapping them in wax paper bags or zipper-lock plastic bags, I’ve resorted to putting cut bananas and avocados in glass jars. While this doesn’t prevent browning, the rate is markedly slowed down.

The outer leaves of scallions have a stubborn tendency to turn brown if kept in plastic produce bags. I found that by placing the stalks, root-side down, into a glass jar with about a half inch or so of water (enough to submerge the roots) and loosely covered with a plastic bag, they will last much longer. The outer leaves will also not brown.

Arugula, spinach and basil transferred to lidded Pyrex bowls or the like similarly last longer than when they’re kept in their plastic or cellophane bags.

The rule-of-thumb seems to be to chuck the plastic and use glass. I plan to do more experimenting. 

How to Keep Cilantro Fresh Forever

Ever tire of cilantro becoming slimy and black after only a few days in the fridge? Here’s a tip for keeping them fresh forever. Maybe not forever, but certainly much longer than one has a right to expect. I’ve successfully kept cilantro alive and fresh for two weeks until all of it was gone, an impossibility when left in the plastic produce bag from the market.

It’s best to do the following when the cilantro is brought home. Remove the cilantro from the produce bag, toss out the twister and throw away any stems and leaves that are past their prime or are already bent. While holding the stems together loosely in your hand, rinse thoroughly under cool running water to remove dirt. This step obviates the need to rinse the leaves again. Remove excess moisture by shaking or lightly whacking the bunch on the side of the sink (my preferred method). Cut off about 1″ of the stems at the root end.

Find a glass jar just tall enough to let most of the leaves stick up over the rim like a flower arrangement. You don’t want a jar that’s too short or too tall. Fill the jar with a couple inches of water. Place the bunch into the jar, making sure that all the stems are submerged in water. Allow the cilantro to dry off on the countertop until almost dry, about 2 hours. Drape the produce bag loosely over the entire arrangement; it isn’t necessary to tuck the bag under the bottom of the glass. Place the jar in the refrigerator. The cilantro will keep fresh for many days. All you need to do is change the water whenever it starts to discolor and cull stems and leaves that are yellowing. Without the bag cover, the cilantro will wilt.