The current coronavirus pandemic has taught us to ensure that we have a decent supply of fruits and vegetables at home. A full lockdown was announced in a few districts of Tamil Nadu yesterday in a bid to contain the spread. Maharashtra and Delhi have not been fully opened up as other cities, and with rising numbers, it is good to be prepared. Also, since it is good to avoid many trips, it may be a good idea to purchase grocery, fruits and vegetables for about two to three weeks at a time. This brings us the challenge of storing, as many vegetables and fruits do get spoiled fast. Here are a few tips and tricks that you can use to ensure that these last longer.
Most fruits do not need refrigeration and should be kept out and eaten fresh after washing thoroughly. Apples, mangoes, melons, oranges, limes, etc. do not get spoiled fast. However, it is important to keep them separate and uncovered. They need to breathe, and hence, do not keep them in airtight containers. Preferably put them in separate fruit baskets, or even in empty steel utensils. If you have many fruits, try to eat and finish them in the order of spoiling. For eg. Grapes, and bananas, do not remain fresh for more than a few days, while apples easily can last up to ten days.
When you feel that any of these fruits are getting overripe, then you can refrigerate them to make them last for a few more days. Also, in the worst case, you can peel or de-seed them, and store the pulp in the freezer. This may then be used at a convenient time to make some juice, jam, etc. Strawberries usually do not last long, even if you refrigerate them. So, it is best to consume within 2 to 3 days. Pineapple should not be refrigerated for more than 2 to 3 days, as it will get spoilt.
Note: Grapes, bananas, and citrus fruits are not to be refrigerated and should always be eaten fresh.
Onion, garlic and potato can be bought in slightly larger quantities and stored without refrigeration for a month or so. These three should never be refrigerated as their flavour gets affected. Potatoes actually spoil fast if you refrigerate them. They also tend to release some gases and they should be stored away from onions, as otherwise, it can spoil the onions. These can be stored in baskets or steel utensils separately, away from sunlight and moisture. All of them need air circulation to remain fresh, and so should be stacked into some cupboard. Garlic could be peeled and refrigerated, but then you would have to use it within a week or so.
In the refrigerator, please make sure to keep the vegetables and fruits in the designated containers only to keep them fresh. Do not mix them with meat and poultry, or cooked food. Ideally, tomatoes too can stay fresh outside them fresh for about a week easily. However, you could put them a neat plastic cover or paper bag to refrigerate. If using plastic covers, kindly add a few tissue papers in it. This hack will make sure to absorb all the moisture and keep the tomatoes fresh.
Cabbage and cucumber can be easily stored outside for a week. Cabbage can also be stored in the refrigerator to make it last longer. You may wrap it in a plastic cover and may have to remove the outer leaves before using. Carrots, beans, brinjal, etc. too may be stored in the refrigerator in this way. Even a mild damp towel can be used to wrap the vegetables before refrigerating.
Bhindi or okra should not be stored for a long time and should be used within a few days as they start blackening, even with refrigeration. Cauliflower can be stored as-is in a plastic container or you may cut into florets and store in a container. Shimla Mirch or bell peppers usually last for up to fifteen days when stored in the fridge.
Spinach can be washed and dried and the cut and stored in containers after wrapping in paper towels. In case, you are sure to use it within 2 to 3 days, you can store them as-is. But when you wash them before refrigerating, they spoil fast, unless you have fried them properly again. Also, kindly cut off the roots for spinach, coriander, mint, methi leaves before refrigerating them. Ideally, even with refrigeration, you should use them within three days. Curry leaves can be separated and stored in a container with tissues to last around fifteen days.
The stem of the green chillies should be removed before these are stored in the fridge. A zip lock cover or an airtight container may be used to store these. You could wrap them in a paper towel before putting them in the container to make them last longer. These can also be frozen, as is or you could wash and grind them and store the paste in the freezer. This method can be applied for ginger and garlic as well.
Note: It is important to take a stock of all that you have to ensure that nothing is getting spoilt; vegetables should be used in the order of their shelf life. A simple Post-it on the fridge can help you with this.