Are you wasting food, particularly veggies, because it ripens and then rots faster than you can eat? Well, blame it on the ethylene. According to Pretoria dietitian Jason van Heerden, ethylene is a natural gas that is released from some fruits and vegetables that speed up the ripening process.
And it is not all about the temperature. Some vegetables and fruit need to be stored in the refrigerator, others need to ripen before being placed in the refrigerator, and others are best stored at room temperature or in a cool, dry place.
Some quick-ripening fruits include avocados and bananas, which can be stored in the fridge until later use.
Frozen vs fresh
“Frozen vegetables are viewed as less healthy by some people than fresh vegetables. There is very little difference between the nutritional value of fresh and frozen vegetables,” says Van Heerden.
To increase consumption of healthy foods at home, it can be helpful to alter factors such as food presentation and storage conditions, recommends Van Heerden.
As a strategy modification, Van Heerden proposes substituting cookies for fruits on nearly all of the tables in the house, to adapt to eating more fruits and vegetables.
Best methods to store your foods
Caterer and founder of SJ Events, Siyanda Jayiya (29), says that vegetables are delicate foods that are perishable and ready to consume.
In the same way spinach must be stored in the refrigerator for at least one to two days, it may be difficult to properly keep these items, he adds. Otherwise, they will begin to dehydrate gradually.
He says that all unripe vegetables must be preserved at an ambient temperature until they are ripe before being placed in the refrigerator.
“A warm, dark environment is ideal for ripening vegetables and fruits. Keep them away from damp areas, as they are susceptible to mould.”
Ideal storage for different foods
Jane Nshuti, founder of Tamu by Jane and executive chef at Bertha House, believes that vegetables are distinctive and must be treated differently. For example, a potato stored in the refrigerator converts its starch to sugar more quickly, which impacts its texture and flavour.
“Some vegetables lose their crispness but are still edible despite their altered flavour and texture, while others turn bitter.”
Nshuti suggests that it is not a good idea to purchase fruits and vegetables in bulk; instead, you should purchase them weekly to minimise storage challenges.
“Correct storage guarantees that food remains fresh until the time of consumption, while also preventing the growth of harmful toxins due to incorrect storage.”
She says when food is improperly stored, there is a risk of bacterial and mould growth, in addition to unnecessary food waste.
Good packaging, good nutrition
According to Siphe Ntsabo (34) of Ntsabo African cuisine, some vegetables such as carrots, peppers, lettuce, and asparagus can be stored in plastic wraps or paper in the refrigerator to extend their quality.
According to Ntsabo, washing some veggies before storing them, such as potatoes, can cause them to perish more quickly.
“After purchase, leafy vegetables are likely to have a long shelf life if they are rinsed, wrapped in paper towel, and stored in an airtight container or plastic bag.”
Garlic, onions, bananas, winter squash, and pumpkins should be stored at room temperature and not in the refrigerator, she recommends.
“Some soft veggies and fruits, such as apricots, peaches, avocados, kiwi fruits, mangoes, melons, papaya, tomatoes, and plums can be stored at room temperature until they ripen, Afterwards, they may be refrigerated.”
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