One of the concerns that my friends always express is how I keep fruits and vegetables in my pantry. They know that I realize that it’s important to ensure that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables during the course of the day, but how can I possibly apply my pantry principle to provide the fruits and vegetables that my family needs.
Obviously, fresh vegetables have a very short shelf life, and won’t last for two weeks in the pantry. Some fruits and vegetables won’t even last a day at room temperature. Many of them require refrigeration for their maximum shelf life. Spinach, lettuce, and berries are among this group. Potatoes and onions last for longer periods at room temperature, but potatoes begin to sprout as the days get warmer, and eventually, they become inedible.
Even with refrigeration, some fruits and vegetables lose their appeal within a few days to a week. Also, the more time that elapses between harvest and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, the more nutrients are lost. It is estimated that fresh produce loses, on average, about 30% of it’s nutrients within three days of harvest. That’s a significant loss in a short period of time. This leads us to the question I am frequently asked by my friends.
How do I store fruits and vegetables for long term use?
There are three main methods for long term storage of fruits and vegetables.
For our purposes, canning refers to both purchased foods in cans or jars as well as those foods that are preserved by canning, in jars, at home. Canning is good for long term storage, and fruits and vegetable stored this way have a much longer shelf life. Canned fruits and vegetables can be an affordable way to meet your family’s nutritional needs, and it’s convenient to be able to store them at room temperature. The down side to canned fruits and vegetables is that often, salt and/or sugar are added to fruits and vegetables during the canning process. This can pose a problem if you’re trying to limit either of those in your diet.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are a convenient, and cost effective, way of providing fruits and vegetables to your family. Unlike canned fruits and vegetables, there is generally no added salt or sugar. This can be good if you’re trying to watch the amount of salt, or sugar, you ingest. The drawback with frozen produce is that it has to be stored in the freezer, and many people have limited freezer space. Also, in the event of a prolonged power outage, you might lose all of your produce. If fruits and vegetables get pushed to the back of the freezer, they can become freezer burned which can affect their flavor and texture.
There are two ways to dry fruits and vegetables for storage. The first method is freeze drying, which, at this time, is very expensive to do at home, but there are several places that sell freeze dried foods that can be purchased for long term storage and daily use. Unfortunately, these cost more than fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.
The second method for drying fruits and vegetables is dehydrating. Dehydrated fruits still, often, have a higher price than fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables, but dehydrating is more economical as it can be done at home. Some foods can even be dehydrated using a regular oven, and there are dehydrators on the market that are very cost effective. Dehydrated food has a long shelf life, doesn’t require any refrigeration, and the finished product ends up being smaller than it was in the beginning because all, or most of, the water has been removed. This means that it takes up less space to store.
Each of these storage methods has some benefits, as well as some limitations. When you’re looking toward building your pantry, you’ll have to decide what’s going to work best for you and your family.
In the coming days and weeks, we will be discussing each of these methods of food preservation in more depth, so check back so you don’t miss anything.
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Click on the links above to learn more about each of these food preservation methods and their impact on nutritional content.
Which of these methods for storing fruits and vegetables do you prefer? Why is that your favorite? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.