When unpacking your CSA share, you may suddenly find yourself wondering - How should I store these vegetables? Storing your fresh vegetables correctly will help prolong the shelf-life of your beautiful produce - making sure you still have crisp lettuce and crunchy carrots when the time comes for you to cook with them. In today’s post, we hope to outline a few strategies that will help you get the most of your Vrdnt veg. We will also help you identify which crops you can expect to hold for a few weeks in the fridge, and which you should consume more quickly. In addition to storing your veggies properly, simply knowing what you should cook first will help you avoid that dreaded wasted-veggie shame spiral.
The moment the vegetable is plucked from the earth - detached from its water source or unearthed from the insulative soil - it begins to lose moisture, causing roots (like carrots) to go limp and greens (like chard) to wilt - the cell walls beginning to collapse. When approaching your CSA share and trying to figure out how to store your veggies, it’s helpful to keep this in mind. Most of these storage tips have the same goal: keep the vegetable’s moisture content in balance.
First, some terminology.
Shelf-Life: The length of time you can expect your Vrdnt veggies to last. Despite the name, most vegetables should actually be stored in a refrigerator crisper drawer - not a shelf. When you see the shelf life of your veg dwindling, it’s always good to have a plan of last resort. A big pot of soup, in my opinion, is the best savior.
Refreshing: If not too far gone, many vegetables can be revived from a limpish state. To refresh bunched greens, treat them like the beautiful bouquet they are: trim the ends, and place in a glass of water, perhaps with a plastic bag gently covering the top (goodbye beautiful bouquet metaphor).
Plastic bags: The produce bags from the grocery store, as well as the bag your Vrdnt produce comes in, are great options to use when I recommend a plastic bag. I happen to particularly enjoy using large gallon ziplocks that I can easily see through; I will wash these and use them over and over again. Many of the commercially produced plastic vegetable bags (like the ones carrots come in) are ‘vented’ - meaning there are tiny holes in the bag which allows for some moisture to escape, while retaining the majority of the humidity within the bag. If storing your produce in a large ziplock, for example, it’s good to emulate this venting “technology”... aka, just don’t zip up the bag all the way, or fold over the top and close with a clip vs. zipper seal technology. In the guide below, I’ll often refer to a “mostly-sealed bag”, and now you know what I mean.
Fabric produce bags: There are many options out there for fabric produce bags, made from natural fibers like cotton or linen. Most of these bags suggest to get the bag wet first, wring it out, and then store your produce in the bag, in the crisper drawer. The bag’s moisture will help keep the veggies perky when they begin to lose their own moisture. (Farms will often spray the floors of their coolers with water for a similar effect!).
Storage container: If you don’t want to use plastic bags and don’t have the fabric variety, you can also use a container with a tight fighting lid.
Crisper Drawer: Your refrigerator’s crisper drawer is always going to be the best spot for your produce to live. If it gets crowded in there, prioritize the space for more tender and fragile vegetables, like lettuce or greens, and move the roots to the shelf until you’re able to make some more room.
Becky’s Produce bags: The bags Becky delivers her produce in are a great resource. In a pinch, you could just throw the entire bag in the fridge and all of the vegetables would fare better stored that way than lying naked on a fridge shelf. Don’t ever leave your vegetables naked on a fridge shelf, unless it's a watermelon, and then that’s about all you can do.
STORAGE GUIDE, BY VEGETABLE TYPE
Bunched Root (and root-like) Vegetables
Carrots, radishes, turnips, beets, kohlrabi, fennel, celeriac
When we say “bunched root crops” we mean vegetables that are tethered with a twist tie or rubber band, and are one part leaf, one part root.
On the day you bring home your Vrdnt veggies, it’s worth setting aside, say, 30 seconds(?), to detach the greens from the root. If left intact, these greens will continue to wick moisture out of the root, their usual source of water, leaving limp carrots, beets, or the like. Store the roots (now what we would call “bulk roots”) and greens (“bunched greens”) in separate, semi-sealed bags (details below!).
Bulk Root Crops
Carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips
If the roots still have a bit of dirt on their skin, you can soak them in a bowl/basin of water, and gently scrub the dirt away. Store the roots separately from any greens, in a mostly-sealed bag, in the crisper drawer; it’s okay if they have a tiny bit of water still clinging to them. If you’re using a plastic bag and hope to store the roots for longer than a week or so, you can consider including a damp paper towel/cloth in the bag - this will help maintain the humidity/moisture level in the bag, replenishing the root if it begins to soften. If you’re using a fancy-shmancy cloth storage bag, the bag’s (damp) fabric will serve the same purpose as the damp paper towel. Root crops properly stored can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months.
Alas, if your carrots or beets get buried at the bottom of your crisper drawer and they emerge like sad balloons, don’t give up on them just yet and try placing them in a cool bowl of water, in the fridge, for a few hours. You may be pleasantly surprised! (And if they don’t perk up, use them for stock!)
Protip: Bunched root crops are the original farm BOGO! Two veggies for the price of one! Once you detach your greens, you can consider them “Bunched Greens” and store them accordingly!
Kale, collards, chard, mustard, spinach, mizuna, plus any greens you detach from roots!
Bunched greens like to be stored in a slightly sealed bag, in the crisper drawer. Some bunched greens are more fragile than others. Mizuna and spinach (which will sometimes come to you bunched, sometimes bagged) are more tender than, say, dinosaur kale. Rawrr. If the greens are a little damp, and even if they’re not, it’s a good idea to wrap the bunch in a paper towel, before putting it in the bag. This will help wick away moisture that may cause the greens to slime. Like the plastic bag itself, you can dry and reuse the paper towel again and again; or simply cleanup a spill once you’ve eaten your greens. If you plan to use the greens in a week's time, you can totally skip this paper-towel step, but if you want to make your bunched greens last for two weeks, it’s a good trick.
If a bunch of greens arrives home looking slightly sad, trim the ends and refresh it in a cool cup of water for a few hours before moving on to fridge-storage. You can really do this refreshing step at any point in your relationship with this bunch! There’s never a wrong time to make something anew.
If you don’t think you’ll use your bunched greens in a week or two, these make awesome candidates for blanching and freezing - chopped up and ready to throw into a pot of soup or bowl of curry.
Protip: The more tender the leaves feel, physically, the more quickly they will need to be used. For example, bunched spinach is softer than collards, and will need to be used sooner. If the leaf can easily be smooshed between your fingertips, use it sooner.
Salad mix, pea shoots, spinach, baby kale, arugula
These fragile babies are perhaps the most perishable crop in all of your CSA share, and are among those you should use first! (Salad!) When you get your bagged greens home, fold up a clean dishcloth or dry paper towel and slip it in the bag. This will help wick away excess moisture from the greens, keeping them crisp and perky.
If you happen to spy a leaf or two that is looking damaged (slimy or mushy), evict that one from the premises immediately as it will only speed up the degradation of the others.
Unless you plan to implore the use of a salad spinner and really commit to fully-drying your greens, it’s best to wait to wash your greens (if you even decide you want to wash them) just before you eat them. Becky’s greens usually arrive looking pretty spotless, and mostly, I can’t be bothered to give them a second wash at home. To each their own.
If you open the fridge with intentions to make a salad, but your bagged greens are a little limp, you can refresh them by filling up a basin/bowl of very cool water, and letting the loose greens swim for a bit. Make sure to fully dry before using.
Protip: Make sure your salad greens are completely dry before you dress them; oil and water don’t mix, and an oil-based salad dressing will slip off of a wet leaf.
Protip: If you don’t have a salad spinner and you feel compelled to wash your greens, you can gently roll them up in a tea towel or clean dish cloth, then unroll and let air dry. This more passive-method takes longer than a salad spinner, which will dry your greens in a jiff.
Romaine, red-leaf, iceberg
These lettuces, while usually heartier than those bagged by the individual leaf, should also be consumed sooner rather than later. Store in a plastic bag, with a paper towel stuffed inside, in the crisper drawer. Head lettuces, when stored correctly, can last for upwards of two weeks.
Wait to wash these lettuces just before you use them.
Protip: If you’re like me and consume A LOT of romaine lettuce, save the plastic zipper bag your grocery store romaine came in, and swap it out for the (arguably superior) Vrdnt variety.
Another Protip: If your romaine is beginning to turn and a raw salad seems less appealing, make a grilled salad, instead! (Trust me! Grilled romaine is the BEST!)
Cilantro, parsley, dill, green onions, basil, Thai basil
The very, very best way to store your herbs also happens to be quite impractical for most fridges: Like a bouquet of flowers, put your herbs in a glass of water and cover the whole thing with a plastic bag. The few times I’ve gone this route, I’ve inevitably ended up with spilt water all over my fridge. The second best way, which is still extremely effective, is simply to store tender herbs in a mostly sealed plastic bag, slightly, in the crisper drawer. If the herbs are delivered and are slightly wet, either dry them with a tea towel, or lightly wrap in a dry paper towel before bagging.
Like bunched greens, you can refresh any sad looking bunched herbs to try and re-perk.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a plan for your herbs, you can dry them! The best way I’ve found to dry fresh, tender herbs is in the oven. Spread the herbs out on a lined baking sheet, and turn your oven on the lowest temperature it will go. After the oven has preheated, pop your herbs in the oven, and then turn the oven off. Leave the herbs in the oven until they’re mostly dry, which should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove, cool, store, share.
Thyme, oregano, rosemary
At my house, bundles of these herbs just get hung from a peg. When they’re fresh, I chop them up, and once they’ve begun to dry, I usually just shake the bundle over my pot. True story.
Protip: Mix flaky salt, dried lemon zest, and a plethora of dried herbs together for a fun, zesty, finishing salt. This makes awesome diy-gifts, too!
Cauliflower & Broccoli
Store in a bag, or sealed container, in the crisper drawer. Broccoli can last for 2 weeks, Cauliflower up to 4 if kept cold. Do not remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower until you’re ready to use it. If you get long, beautiful pieces of broccolini, they refresh nicely, if needed; just trim the bottom.
Protip: Don’t toss your cauliflower or broccoli leaves or stems! Cook the leaves like any other hearty green, and the stems like a more juicy potato. When I’m roasting cauliflower, I often throw oil coated leaves on the pan for the last 10 or so minutes.
Acorn, butternut, spaghetti
Don’t waste your fridge space on these. Uncut winter squash should hang out at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Depending on the squash and your specific kitchen conditions, winter squash can last for many months, though it begs the question of why you would actually want to wait that long.
Protip: Spread your seasonal knowledge to all of your Southern friends, and let them know that here, these crops are actually harvested throughout the summer. Because of their hearty nature, they can easily store throughout the fall.
Nappa, savory, red, green
Store in a slightly sealed bag, in the crisper drawer.
A head of red or green cabbage, uncut, is pretty hearty and will be okay on a refrigerator shelf if the crisper drawer is full. Just make sure to avoid the very back corners of your fridge, which are often the coldest and may actually freeze the cabbage. In the crisper drawer, a cabbage can last for up to a month or two.
Protip: Do not peel the outer layers from the cabbage until you’re ready to use it. These thick, and sometimes gnarly leaves will help protect the whole head.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes
Store potatoes in a cool dark place, at room temperature. In lue of an actual root cellar, a pantry or cupboard will do. Do not refrigerate. Potatoes like a bit of airflow, so try to spread them in an even layer versus pack in a pile. Keep away from appliances, like a refrigerator, which can put off a lot of heat.
Protip: Should you happen to have a wine fridge, store your potatoes and sweet potatoes in there; they’re really happiest at 45-50 degrees, and can last for months when kept at this temperature. Should you feel like going pioneer, you can store your potatoes, and other root crops, in bins of damp sand. We mention this fact more so as an interesting tidbit than as an actual recommendation. But again, to each their own.
Squash, zucchini, cucumbers
Store in the crisper drawer, in a slightly sealed bag. These relatively fragile, thin-skinned specimens, squash especially, should be eaten within about a week’s time for the best quality.
Protip: Handle your summer squash gently. Any small knick or bruise will invite in bacteria and speed up the ripening process.
The best way to piss off a farmer is to store your tomatoes in the fridge. I kid; sort of. Store tomatoes on the countertop. They are happiest on a paper towel or piece of cardboard, stem side down, with some breathing room between each ‘mater. Enjoy ASAP.