Fresh Vegetables

Fresh asparagus

How long  do  fresh vegetables  remain safe and tasty to eat? That depends, in part, on how you handle them.  Food scientist Susan Brewer, Ph.D. offers these suggestions on vegetable care from the moment the produce comes home with you to the time when you store the leftovers:


Storing raw vegetables: Hard-skinned vegetables and root vegetables (such as squash, turnips, and potatoes) don’t require refrigeration. You can store them in a cool, dry place, for example, a basement or garage. The ideal temperature for these vegetables is about 55ºF, but they will do well in somewhat cooler environments (as low as 32 degrees), too . However, if you don’t have  a cool area in your living quarters, you can store these vegetables in the refrigerator. Removing the tops of carrots, radishes, and beets before refrigeration reduces moisture loss and increases shelf life.


Wrapping: Some vegetables need to be wrapped to protect them and to prevent dehydration. They should be LOOSELY wrapped in plastic film or placed in a PERFORATED bag for two reasons: 1) Wrapping loosely allows air to circulate around the vegetables, and that prevents excess moisture from accumulating. Preventing excess moisture minimizes the growth of mold. 2) Low-acid foods such as vegetables are an ideal growth medium for the bacterial spores that cause botulism. These spores are commonly found in the soil. But Clostridium botulinum can grow only in the ABSENCE of oxygen. So let your vegetables have some breathing room.


Washing: Raw vegetables should be washed immediately before they are going to be eaten or cooked, not when they are being stored in the fridge.  The exterior of all veggies should be washed even if the outside is not going to be consumed.  Otherwise, pathogens on the surface could transfer to the flesh when the vegetable is cut.


Cooking: When vegetables are cooked to 140ºF, most living bacterial cells (the kind that cause illness) are killed within one minute. At 165ºF, they’re killed instantly. However, spore-forming bacteria can survive steaming or boiling; they’re not killed by the usual cooking methods. That’s why it’s important to prevent their growth in the first place by wrapping vegetables loosely.


Storing cooked leftovers: Leftover cooked vegetables should be refrigerated in covered containers with some airspace to prevent the germination of botulism spores. Properly stored, leftover cooked vegetables can be kept for several days.


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