Caring for and Processing Your Food
Quick Note: Remember, your veggies are organically cared for, so occasionally you may find some bugs, holes, and inconsistencies here and there. We do our best to give you the highest quality food, but don’t expect your veggies to be “grocery store perfect” – in our option, its wasteful to cull veggies to absolute perfection and its not always attainable in organic growing.
While we do wash all of the food before we pack it, keep in mind we don’t have a
commercial facility in which to wash them, nor do we have large refrigerators in which to cool them. With greens and lettuce, check for slugs and others bugs, especially if it has been overcast or rainy within 24 hours of harvest. Slugs in particular thrive in that kind of weather. We do use an organic slug bait which works very well, but it won’t always get all of them.
NOTE: However you process your food, if you have anything undesirable, we encourage you to compost it and NOT throw directly into the garbage. An easy, passive compost pile can be done in a corner of your yard away from the house. I personally keep a lidded bucket under my sink at all times for veggie scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells and empty it once a week. When emptied to the compost pile, I quickly throw a layer of leaves or straw over the top to keep animals and odors down. Once every few months or so, I mix up and flip the pile with a pitchfork. You may not get much actual compost from this method, but its quick and easy and the main goal is to not add something to the landfill that doesn’t need to be there!
OPTION #1 – NO TIME TO PROCESS?
Get those veggies cold. If you ABSOLUTELY don’t have time to do anything to the veggies right away, the best thing you can do is get them in the fridge or in a cooler with ice packs. The exceptions would be room temperature for Tomatoes, Potatoes, cured Onions and cured Garlic (garlic scapes and green garlic still need to be refrigerated). Additionally, Basil should be kept in a glass of water at room temp as well – not in the fridge.
OPTION #2 – QUICK PROCESS (Takes about a half hour or less):
*Leafy or head greens (eg: Lettuce, Escarole, Kale) – Run through cold water, shake or pat dry and pack into ziploc bags.
*Root crops (eg: Carrots, Turnip, Beets) – Remove top greens, do not wash roots. Keep roots in fridge in plastic bag or in a crisper drawer. Rinse top greens, shake or pat dry and store in ziploc bag – almost all root tops are edible. Some people eat carrot greens, others do not.
*Herbs, Green Garlic and Scapes – If they are bunched, trim stems and put them in a glass of water, fridge or room temp is fine. Basil should not refrigerated – it causes the leaves to turn black and rot. If herbs are bagged with short stems, leave them in the bag in the fridge.
*Eggplant, Peppers, Cukes, Legumes and Squash – Refrigerate, keep in plastic bags or crisper or both.
*Scallions and Leeks – Can be bagged and kept in fridge, or put in water either in or outside of the fridge.
*Baby Greens (Salad Mix, Spinach, Arugula): Keep in packaging in fridge.
*Tomatoes, Shallots, cured Potatoes, cured Onions and cured Garlic can all be kept room temperature or in a cupboard. They should not be refrigerated unless chopped.
OPTION #3 – BEST PROCESSING (Time depends on what you have and how much):
Greens, Head – eg: Escarole, Pac Choi, and even Lettuce.
I usually run these under cold water to clean off any remaining dirt or bugs. I change the direction I’m holding the greens so the water flushes through the top, and then flip them over so the water runs back out the other way. I then remove all the leaves from the heads about a half inch to an inch from the original “crown” of the plant. (Note: Both escarole and pac choi have edible – and delicious – stems.) I go through all the leaves to make sure they are clean, and then chop them as I would prep them for a dish. After one more wash in a strainer or a salad spinner, I dry them only slightly, then pack them into a plastic bag and store in the fridge until ready for use. I’ve had greens last up to two weeks like this!
Greens, Leaf – eg: Kale and Chard
I follow the same method as above, only I start by opening the bunch of leaves and wash them individually. Chard stems can be used in cooking, but often I find I end up with too much of them in relation to the leaves if I add all of them. They also take longer to cook. I like to put them into a dish in the beginning, when I would add celery. Kale stems are edible BUT not necessarily desirable to eat as they can be quite tough. When prepping kale, I cut the entire stem even up through the leaves. What to do with the stems? Try blending them in a “green” juice or smoothie and keep the luscious leaves for cooking!
Herbs – eg: Basil, Parsley, Mint, Cilantro, Dill
For all other herbs, put a fresh cut on the stems and put it into water, or get the leaves off the stems, rinse them, bag them and put them in the fridge.
Basil has been the exception. Keep it in water but DO NOT refrigerate it – it will blacken and rot.
If I don’t think I can use herbs within a few days, I will also chop them up and divide them into ice cube trays with a little water or oil and freeze them. Once frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag so they’re ready whenever you need them! Think about it – how awesome would fresh cilantro be in February? I’ve also been told (though haven’t had a chance to try it) that whole basil leaves freeze fine if you rub them with just a little olive oil before you freeze them, lay them out on a cookie sheet to freeze and then bag them once frozen.
Root crops – eg: Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Radishes
All root crops we grow except carrots have edible tops (some people disagree). Tops can be processed the same way as cooking greens. If I don’t have time to process the roots, I will put them into a glass or a bowl with an inch of water on my kitchen counter. They will last this way for a few days. A longer storage method would be to cut off the roots (with about a half inch of stem) and store in a bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Garlic Scapes and Green Garlic
Neither of these has been “cured”, which is a several week long drying out process that garlic bulbs go through before they are ready for hard storage. These will keep, but you should use them within two-three weeks. Keep in the fridge inside a plastic bag. Sometimes I use these to make a simple “pesto” with oil, salt and pepper, and use it to start meals. Again, this will keep for about two weeks or longer in the freezer.
Scallions and Leeks
Keep the roots in water on your counter or wrap in a plastic bag in the fridge. When you’re ready to use, make sure you chop a little of the bottom off just above the roots – as much as we try, those roots hold a lot of soil. You can use most of the scallion, but the further you go from the white part of the root to the green part of the leaf, it gets a little stringy.
Tomatoes – Cherry, Plum and Slicers
On the off chance your tomatoes make it back to your house before you eat them all on the way home… DO NOT refrigerate them. Keep them whole, not bagged or enclosed in a container and leave them at room temp. Before you cut them, wash them. Once cut up, keep them in the fridge. If they have a bruise or a soft spot (which happens so easily any time they are in transit) you may have to cut out that part and then store it in the fridge. Cherry tomatoes are notorious for cracking, usually just a light jostling that can do it. When you get home, double check that the cherries have not split. If they have, eat them or use them ASAP. Splits and cracks can attract fruit flies, so check the tomatoes occasionally to make sure they have not split. Fresh basil over the top of the tomatoes can also help keep the fruit flies away.
Eggplant, Cucumbers and Squash
Keep them cold. They should be ok in the fridge for a few days just sitting out, BUT after a day or two, they will start to shrivel. For longer storage – put them in a plastic bag, wrapped in a paper towel in your crisper drawer.
Peppers – Bells and Hots
Peppers are super easy! I just keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use. Much like eggplant, they will start to shrivel after a few days just left “out” in the fridge, so you can bag them up. Additionally, they freeze incredibly well. Just throw them in a bag and put them in the freezer. Some “veggie champs” I’ve talked to have even told me NOT to wash them before I freeze, because the dirt and dust from the garden helps them “keep better”. I won’t say I would do this, but its an interesting theory.
Garlic Bulbs, Onions and Shallots (Cured)
DON’T REFRIGERATE them. I don’t care what anyone tells you. Don’t do it. The reason: Garlic is a fall planted bulb because it needs to go through a “dormant cold period” called vernalization. If you put it into the fridge, it will think its underground in the winter and try to start growing at some point. How long does it last? If you keep it out on the counter and use as needed, well into the winter.
Salad Mix and Baby Greens
Try and try again, what we’ve found helps the baby greens hold the best is NOT washing them until they are ready to be eaten. You can also try rinsing and running them through your salad spinner when you get your food, but they need to be very well dried off before you repack them. We’ve often seen the leaves begin to rot quite quickly if moisture is left on the leaves. If you have your own method, please share it with us, but our suggestion is to get them in the fridge ASAP and only give them a good wash just before eating them.
Peas and Green Beans (Legumes)
Again, if you can get them home before you eat them all, leave them in the bag in your fridge and use within a week or two. You always want to break off the top stem part (and sometimes the bottom), though its edible it is tough and stringy. Though we only grow snap and snow peas (edible shells) often as the summer weather really takes over, the shells get tougher and tougher. We will usually put a note out to let you know that you may want to use them like shell peas near the end of the crop.
When we pack your order, for convenience, we will pack some of those “room temperature items” in the same package. There’s no easy way for us to keep those items at room temperature on hot summer days, and it would be confusing for you, our customer, to have to get your items from several places. A little cold time shouldn’t be too detrimental, but once you get your food, please take care to unpack as above.