Summer is here and gardens are producing lots of fresh veggies. Produce stands are open and fresh fruits are abundant. We highly encourage healthy eating and growing and sharing fresh fruits and vegetables in home or community gardens. But what do you do with all the fresh fruit and veggies that you can’t eat? Here are some proper storage tips to prevent spoilage, insects and rodents.
· Always clean your produce before canning, freezing, storing or taking it to work with you. Careful cleaning of produce will help to remove all soil and bugs.
· Keep your clean produce stored in containers with lids to ensure freshness, reduce freezer burn, and keep out pesky pests.
· Store your items in a cool area or refrigerator at all times. Temperatures less than 40° will inhibit bacteria growth on perishable items.
· Keep a watch out for overripe/decaying produce and dispose of these items immediately.
If you are cooking a large amount of food for a party or preparing for a work luncheon, remember to never leave food out of refrigeration for over 2 hours. One of the most common causes of food-borne illness is improper cooling of cooked foods. Because bacteria can be found everywhere, even after food is cooked to a safe internal temperature, bacteria can be reintroduced to the food and then reproduce. For this reason leftovers must be refrigerated within 2 hours. Remember: Do not leave food out uncovered. If there are gnats or other insects about, inspect for spoiled food and discard it immediately.
Always remember: “When in doubt, throw it out!” If you think you are ill, see a physician. For more information regarding food preparation, storage or safety visit www.usda.gov.
*stay tuned next week for Part 2