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Keep Your Food Safe

Many of us avoid food shopping in this time of Covid spread. Therefore, we want the foods we stock in to last longer. We don’t want to waste them. But the combination of buying more food and trying to store it longer can lead to disaster. Food is perishable. To achieve personal food security you have to have a plan.

My plan is to use the most perishable food first. I discovered, sometimes the hard way, that foods like mushrooms, asparagus, raspberries, and corn on the cob spoil quickly, even in the fridge. In fact, a few foods spoil faster in the fridge than out of it. For example, garlic cloves last over a month in an open mesh bag on the shelf, but only a couple of weeks in the fridge. Potatoes are reported to last a couple of months in a cool, dry, dark place, but only a couple of weeks in the fridge. There is no cool place below 50 degrees F. in my house. The best I can do is to keep my potatoes in a bin in a cool room, with a dish towel over them. It’s okay to remove sprouts on potatoes before you wash and cook them. As for sweet potatoes, I usually keep them in the fridge, where they last about ten days. Onions can last 2 months in the fridge, but should not be stored near potatoes.

I use the least perishable foods last. Among my favorites are cabbage, carrots, winter squash, and fresh blueberries. I keep the hard shelled winter squash out on the counter, and the others in the fridge. I don’t wash any fruit or veggie until I use it.

In the middle group, meaning they last 3 to 5 days in the fridge, are broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, lettuce, green beans, melon, and eggplant. Keep left-overs in the fridge, or freeze them.

A lot of us are relying on easy keepers like dried beans. The main thing to watch out for with those treasures is little bugs like weevils. Check the bags before you open them, and store them in tight containers.

Two other beloved categories of staples are nuts and seeds, and flour. Both, when unprocessed, are high in healthy nutrients, including oils. For that very reason, both can degrade. If you buy nuts unshelled, or in vacuum packed cans, they should keep well for a year. If you keep shelled nuts in the fridge, walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds last a year. Cashews and peanuts should last 6 months, and pistachios 3 months.

Long lasting flour is not desirable, because it doesn’t spoil due to having had its nutrients stripped out of it in processing. Whole flours like graham wheat flour deteriorate in subtle ways. They develop an odor and an off flavor. They lose nutritional value as some of their proteins deteriorate. To maintain quality flour store it in your refrigerator or freezer.

My main reference for this article was Janet Bailey’s book Keeping Food Fresh. There are many listings on this subject in the newspaper, at your supermarket, and through the Agricultural Extension Service.

Love your food. Keep it, and you, safe.

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David W. Stewart
David W. Stewart
Aug 31, 2020

I have found cucumbers and green bell peppers don't keep well, but the cucumbers can be sliced and immersed in vinegar to last a week.

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