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Brought home produce in cotton bags... Now what?

 
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I'm trying to reduce my plastics usage and got reusable produce bags. I now struggle with what to do with the produce that needs refrigeration. To help it keep, the typical step would be to wash and put in a plastic bag. Lol

I do already wash and reuse Ziploc bags.

I am curious how single-use-plastic-free or zero waste people handle produce.
 
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I wrap my refrigerated produce in a damp small towel.......actually a homemade towel made from a worn out t-shirt. My refrigerator is a chest type and thus doesn't have those hydrator draws on the bottom. The damp towel keeps things fresh for quite a while. It's not a wet towel, but just barely damp.
 
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I just put the produce into the built in produce drawers in the bottom of the refrigerator.  They are easy to pull out to empty and rinse out and dry once a week.  if you bought something like baby greens or snow peas you can store these in a lidded container or a bowl with a plate on top and not taking up produce drawer room or you can put in the produce drawer still in the cloth bag to keep it together
 
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Beeswax food wrap.

*mic drop*

Kidding. But actually not. We got some in our Christmas stockings last year, and I can't believe we didn't have them when I was growing up. They could literally produce this shit on a Tudor Monastery farm, and the antimicrobial nature of beeswax makes it superior to cling wrap in that way. Also, the action of wrapping whatever items, and the heat from your hands, serves to make the wrap stick to itself.

Produce essentially goes over-ripe, the ethylene (I think that's the term, but please correct me if it's not; I know it's the smell of fermentation of fruit) byproducts of which are detected by fruit flies and others, which creates pest issues. But if you don't allow the ethylene to build up, your produce lasts much longer, especially if you buy the stuff you intend to keep as green as possible.

For this solution, I have seen cotton net bags used to great effect, hanging from purpose-sunk hooks, as used for hanging plants. The produce is secure and out of the way, easy to access, and gets complete airflow.

I have found planning to be essential in this, and not just for produce. I can't buy store-bought bread without a plan for it, or I can guarantee that some portion of it will mould and go to the composter.

So I like to make sure that I don't buy too much ready-to-go (as in, must-go-or-it-will-spoil) food of any sort, unless I can process for preservation immediately, either canning/jarring, freezing, or dessication. And I find that doing things like buying my bananas green and my avocados hard gives me some leeway. Incidentally, an unripe avocado won't ripen in the fridge, so that's where I store my hard ones, until I know I will need one in about a day or two, in which case I take out however many I need.

I hope you find some solutions that work well for you. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
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We use a lot of glass pyrex containers for the fridge.  Another thing we did for our small farmers market sales was get some school lunch bag sized cellophane bags.  They're made from cellulose.  We wash and reuse them.  If something needs to be more airtight, we put it in a cellophane bag and then in a reused ziplock.
 
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I'm sure everyone knows already, but I thought I'd mention not everything has to go in the fridge.  I keep potatoes, onions and garlic, squashes, rutabagas in a dark cool cupboard in my kitchen.  There are probably others;  these will generally last a couple weeks in there.  If I buy a big rutabaga (swede) and only use half, I'll keep the remaining half still in the cupboard till I need it.

Tomatoes live on my countertop, along with most fruit, though not berries.  If I pick too much chard at once, I'll put a big bunch in a jar of water, like a bouquet.  Cabbage, kale, and other leafy greens are fine like this too, even as separate leaves.  I leave in on my countertop out of direct sunlight and it'll last a few days;  in fact, cabbage ends up even more crisp than when I put it in (even if I picked it from my garden).  It might work with lettuce too--worth trying.

What I personally keep in the fridge:  carrots, cucumber, peppers, mushrooms, grapes, berries.  The small things (like berries) go in a container, but everything else goes in a drawer or on the shelf.
 
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Chris Kott wrote:Beeswax food wrap.


Make Reusable Food Storage Wrappers
Might be able to wax some of the cotton bags. Open them up, wax, then resew the seam.
:)
I do the towel bit, the bouquet of produce bit, and the washed ziplocks bit.
My sisters are horrified that me and mom wash ziplocks, they simply can't relate to that.
 
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I have found that the best way to get anything to rot, is to seal it up in a plastic bag .

Shelves can be covered with towels or just used bare. For things like grapes or blueberries , i prefer kitchen plates and bowls , with no added water . I'd rather have something that is slightly dehydrated instead of something that is starting to rot. If its something that must be kept hydrated, a damp towel can cover the bowl.

For things like meat that are going to be frozen for a while , I like to freeze them dry on a plate and then give them a quick water dip once they are frozen . This provides an icy shell which guards against freezer burn .
 
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Berries should be rinsed with neat white vinegar, allowed to air dry (roll them around once in a while, to get them dried all over), them place in a dry paper or cotton bag, in the fridge. Rinsing them in the vinegar protects them from mold & mildew, for a while longer, so that the precious gems can usually last over a week, instead of just tree days.

Wrap apples individually, in paper (even newspapers work), and layer in a box, tub, or basket, in a cool dark place - think cellar, basement, or even a closet in a room that is difficult to keep warm. Individually wrapping them keeps that one bad apple from spoiling the whole bunch.

Root veggies can be layered with clean sand - just enough to keep them from touching, and similarly to the apples - a box, basket, or tub, kept in a cool, dark place.
Other than looking term storage, I've found it's easier to keep the stronger smelling stuff & stuff that dries out sealed, than everything else. So, cut onions are sealed up tight, and so are cheeses and meats.

Raw fruits & veggies don't need to be sealed up, tightly, and usually suffer for it, when you do. Some things, like tomatoes, are actually destroyed by refrigeration, so leave them on the counter. I set mine on a clean washcloth or(if the are more than will fit) in a towel. Just make sure they aren't touching - airflow is important. Oh - and if anything does smash them, or they sit to long, & split - they're already on what I'd have use to clean it up, anyway.
 
Mike Haasl
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Carla Burke wrote:Berries should be rinsed with neat white vinegar

 What's "neat" white vinegar?  Does that leave them tasting like vinegar?

Thanks for the list of storage methods Carla!  I found I can store my beets and carrots in damp planer shavings instead of sand.  It's lighter to move the buckets and when it makes a mess on the floor it is easier to sweep up.
 
Carla Burke
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Mike Jay wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:Berries should be rinsed with neat white vinegar

 What's "neat" white vinegar?  Does that leave them tasting like vinegar?

Thanks for the list of storage methods Carla!  I found I can store my beets and carrots in damp planer shavings instead of sand.  It's lighter to move the buckets and when it makes a mess on the floor it is easier to sweep up.



'Neat' just means undiluted - like with a 'neat' scotch - No water or ice. I've never tasted the vinegar on the berries, once they've dried (not dehydrated, just air dried). Glad to help!  
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:
Might be able to wax some of the cotton bags. Open them up, wax, then resew the seam.



I would think it might be easier to figure out a way to keep the two sides of the bag from touching while coating in beeswax than it would be to resew after coating. The two sides could be touching while you were adding the beeswax, you'd just have to separate them while cooling. Maybe insert a wire cooling rack, or hang it open over a couple metal utensils, like you would for drying a ziplock bag.
 
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I purchased organic muslin bags from wellearthgoods.com and that's what I use when shopping for produce.  The trick is to dampen the bag before placing it in the refrigerator.  It definitely helps to keep the produce fresher longer.  What I struggle with is cheese.  I tried bees wrap, but I don't seem to eat it quick enough and it ends up becoming hard and crusty.  Any suggestions??
 
Sue Reeves
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Gail Saito wrote:I purchased organic muslin bags from wellearthgoods.com and that's what I use when shopping for produce.  The trick is to dampen the bag before placing it in the refrigerator.  It definitely helps to keep the produce fresher longer.  What I struggle with is cheese.  I tried bees wrap, but I don't seem to eat it quick enough and it ends up becoming hard and crusty.  Any suggestions??



I keep cheese that is open and I am using in a glass pyrex round container with a plastic lid.  When I make cheese, and it is not a storage cheese ( I wax aged storage cheeses like cheddar until I open it to use, then I keep it in a glass pyrex also) I also use these containers.  Cheese hates being wrapped up, it likes air, but not so much that it dries out.  If you do  not use the cheese right away a good practice is to take the cheese out of the glass container and let it air on the counter for a while and then put it in a clean container before putting back in the refrigerator.  When I make Manchego, this is what I do every week.  Each round of cheese is in its own 4 cup glass container after being brined, once a week the cheese is taken out of the glass container and scrubbed, rubbed realy, with salt ( as it is a brined cheese, and salt keeps mold and such from growing) or salt water then left on the counter over night to dry out a bit, then next day put in a fresh clean glass container and back in the fridge.  I can keep and age the manchego for a very long time like this, I generally just do one a night so if I have alot of rounds I may have a quick chore of this most nights.  You could rub any hard cheese like this if you are not going thru it quickly enough.  When I make soft cheese I also use these containers but the smaller size and that soft goat cheese needs to be used sooner, it doesnt store for a long time.  Another way to store cheese if you do not go thru it quickly enough is to freeze it, grate it first and put it in a large mouth mason jar and put it in the freezer, then you can use what you need for flat bread or tacos.  If it looks like it is going to freeze clumped together, spread it out on a cookie sheet in the freezer until it is frozen and then transfer it to the glass mason jar to keep it from drying out in the freezer

If your piece of cheese is not too large you can use any glass jar, like a wide mouth mason jar to store the cheese in the refrigerator, then no plastic lids
 
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Out of season, I buy lettuce or spinach in plastic containers. It is all that is sold out where I live especially when you choose organic. I keep those containers and store them until I need them. They are perfect for reusing/upcycling. They are excellent for storage of most anything that needs a container, toys, pencils and pens, crayons, craft supplies etc. I especially keep the plastic containers for all the veggies that need to be in the fridge. I find that the vegetables last longer. My lettuce left in a damp cloth or bowl, on the shelf even in the bottom of the fridge last but a couple days, they shrivel up, go whoosy but in the plastic containers a week or longer.

I do not know how to resize the photos, sorry. The container you see here has my lamb's quarters, kale and red oak lettuce from my garden.
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Mike Haasl
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Good point Pamela, we save those and use them for all kinds of things.  Organizing drawers/shelves, catching leaks in the unfinished greenhouse, holding other greens, etc...
 
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I've been told that in times before refrigeration hard cheese was stored in the cold pantry wrapped in a vinegar dampened cloth and put in a cheese keeper. (The keeper was a triangular shaped lid with a dish for a base, you can sometimes find them in antique stores.) The vinegar is supposed to reduce mold contamination while keeping the surface moist. Haven't tried this as I have a fridge.
 
Chris Kott
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Now I hate those things, please understand. I think that plastic should be made to last, and those things don't even recycle in most municipalities.

Having said that, I would also like to add that I have used them in much the same fashion. I have also used them in the garden as cheapie cloches. They work a treat until they're overgrown. There are even the ones with vents on the side that can be useful in situations where more airflow is required.

And keeping something like that out of a landfill is a good deed done for all.

-CK
 
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If you have a 'Berry Breeze"   you can just lay produce on the shelves of your fridge.  No plastic bag needed.   Fresh food lasts much longer and stays fresh and alive.   It runs on 4 'D' cells and makes ozone.  I use the rechargeable batteries that have a 'D' cell size case that holds a 'AA' rechargeable battery.
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after reading this thread im going to start wrapping my veggies in an organic cotton towel or muslin cloth that is slightly dampened, before putting in the fridge. common sense tells me thats the best way to catch ethylene gas. it would also let them breathe, just enough so they dont dry out.

love the vinegar trick for mould prone fruit. you could even spray it on to conserve vinegar.

also for large amounts of produce that is stored outside the fridge, it was mentioned to wrap individually in paper to avoid one bad one ruining the rest. perhaps some kind of crate with partitions to separate them could have the same effect?
 
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