If you can’t go to market during the weekend, better do it in the middle of the week. Last night was Wednesday night and I made a lucky stop at Farmer’s Market. Vegetables were cheaper compared to post-Pepeng prices and there was greater variety. I bought lettuce for P120/kilo and basil for P80/kilo. Fruits were expectedly pricey as we near Christmas but I thought lemons at P12 a piece were a better deal than when you buy one for twenty pesos in the grocery.
I planned to make tuna pesto sandwiches for breakfast this morning and woke up extra early only to find out that Turo already cooked chicken sopas while I lulled the babies (and myself) to sleep. The leafy greens I bought last night will have to wait for another breakfast opportunity over the weekend. In such cases, storing vegetables, particularly the green leafy ones, are important if you want to maintain their crispness and freshness.
How do you store leafy greens and extend their shelf life?
It’s actually best not to have to store them, that is, consume them at once upon purchase. This way you get the most of the vitamin and fiber content. But since greens like lettuce and other herbs are not as accessible as the goods in your sari-sari store, it may be wise to purchase them whenever there’s an opportunity specially if you chance upon freshly harvested or newly delivered batches. If you buy them fresh and crispy, it follows that you can store them longer.
The vegetable drawer in your refrigerator is the best place to store leafy greens. It has a colder air temperature than the rest (excluding the freezer of course). The drawer also traps moisture inside to keep stuff fresher compared to the open racks in the upper portions of your fridge. Vegetables need a certain amount of moisture to remain fresh. However, too much moisture can also shorten their storage life and may cause brown spots to develop in some parts.
It is important that leafy vegetables be drained first before storage. If you intend to store them, do not wash them. You can always wash them before eating or cooking. Wrap the leaves in paper towels or old newspapers, I use the latter to avoide more waste. Be careful in handling the leaves so as not to bruise them but make sure that they are wrapped relatively tightly. Secure the wrapping with a rubber band and place inside plastic bags before storing in the vegetable drawer. If you want to use your vegetable drawer exclusively for leafy greens, you may opt to just put a layer of paper towels or newspapers at the bottom and place the leaves directly so long as they are well-drained. Depending on the length of time you intend to store them and the rate at which the leaves lose moisture, you may replace the paper wrappers as necessary.
Make sure to wrap each type of vegetable individually as brown spots or rotting in one vegetable can spread to others it comes in contact with. For vegetables that come in stalks such as celery, it is best to purchase full stalks with the roots still on for longer shelf life. Sometimes, pechay, horseradish and even lettuce can also be purchased with the roots attached.
For herbs, it is best to purchase in stems rather than leaves that’s been picked out of their stems. Having their stems on slows down the process of dehydration keeping them fresher for longer. Some herbs are better stored upright in a glass of water covered with a perforated plastic bag. Others can be wrapped in newspaper for convenience’ sake.