How to Store Produce

Here’s a great list of ways to store our yummy produce. This is from our friends at Organically Grown Company. Thanks OGC for helping us to enjoy the bounty you distribute!

How to store your bounty of produce in creative ways!

Thanks to our friends at Fresh, we have this great new list of ideas for creative and waste-free ways to extend the life of your produce, in and out of the refrigerator – without the use of plastic.

  • Asparagus-Place the upright stalks loosely in an glass or bowl with water at room temperature. Will keep for a week outside the fridge.
  • Basil-Difficult to store well. Basil does not like to be cold or wet. The best method here is an airtight container/jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside, left out on a cool counter.
  • Beets-Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, and be sure to keep the greens! Leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in an open container with a wet towel on top.
  • Beet greens-Place in an airtight container with a little moisture from a damp cloth.
    Berries-Don’t forget, they’re fragile. When storing, stack them in a single layer, if possible, in a paper bag. Wash right before you plan on eating them.
  • Carrots-Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.
  • Corn-Leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
  • Greens-Remove any bands, twist ties, etc. Most greens must be kept in an air-tight container with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. Kale, collard greens, and chard do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
  • Melons-Keep uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun for up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge; an open container is fine.
  • Peaches (and most stone fruit)-Refrigerate only when fully ripe. Firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
  • Rhubarb-Wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
    Strawberries-Don’t like to be wet. Do best in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week. Check the bag for moisture every other day.
  • Sweet Peppers-Only wash them right before you plan on eating them as wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple of days, place in the crisper if longer storage is needed.
  • Tomatoes-Never refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness, place in a paper bag with an apple.
  • Zucchini-Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.
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How to Start a Buying Club

A few keys we’ve found that have helped us along the way is

  1. staying organized,
  2. really running a group process (think coops), and
  3. having the right people.

We use a free software developed by a local software engineer called foodclub. You can find it at foodclub.org. This software organizes splits and orders, in a simple, easy to read manner. You will need another method for tracking payments. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or even purchasing software like Quicken or Quickbooks.

There are a lot of different models of buying clubs. Some run with a few very dedicated volunteers that shoulder the brunt of responsibility and manage orders. This works for some clubs, but we decided early on that would lead to burnout in our group and as such have shied away from that model. We try to make sure that each vendor has a different coordinator, for example, and we talk at minimum in our steering committee meetings taking a pulse of how the group is running in order to trouble shoot any problems or potential problems. We also have a vendor mailing list and a steering committee list which we utilize between meetings to discuss things that come up. We are still quite new, so this is a learning curve!

Lastly, the most important aspect to the success of a buying club is having the right people. That simply means having the right people to ensure you meet your minimums. It also means having the right people in which to share responsibilities. If you don’t have either, it will be very difficult to get your group running.

We have a Portland Area Buy Club Google Group where we try to share information. Sometime we will be hosting another Buy Club Congress where we can exchange information and help teach each other how to run a successful buy club.

Franken Food

Back in November of 2008,  I was getting ready for the Keep Portland Weird festival at Multnomah County Library. I was watching the news.  KATU was describing new FDA regulations for radiating food to kill dangerous bacteria.  Radiation or irritating lettuce and spinach kills dangerous bacteria and extends the shelf life of these vegetables.  The interviewed biologist found no ill effects of irradiated vegetables.  Sure, it sounds scary, but it’s been proven safe.  Still, the question should remain: is it the wisest course of action?

We know when it comes to car maintenance and our health that preventive treatment is the best medicine.  In other words, it is better to make sure your car is tuned up and the oil changed regularly.  Likewise, it is best to visit the doctor regularly, have your vitals checked, and watch for known diseases like different cancers.  And, to go further, we are encouraged to eat healthy and exercise regularly to prevent heart related diseases and diabetes.  The prevention is the key to good health and good automotive health.

So, why wouldn’t the same be true of the food we eat?  If we eat good food to keep us healthy, why shouldn’t the food we eat be healthy from the start?  Why would we consume food that has been potentially contaminated with E. coli?

I would rather not. The priorities should be eat local first (ensure a secure food economy) and then organic (strict organic, not necessarily USDA organic that lets a % of bad stuff in). I’ve been studying food in many wasy for the better part of a decade now. I’m familiar with CAFOs, cutting chicken beaks and their fattened breasts, spinach fertilized with the manure of infected steers causing E. coli in a vegetable that wouldn’t otherwise have it. With our family money, I try to choose better. I try to choose more local, more whole ingredients so that I can control what goes in our food: not some big factory. I don’t make my noodles from scratch, but I know how. I do make bread, but I don’t mill my flour: but I buy it from a local, reputable source.

We still eat the occassional box of mac ‘n cheese (need easy, super easy, for the times when I can’t whip something up). When we have those foods, it’s always hard. When I am at the grocery store (it feels very rare now-a-days) considering a quick chicken meal for my family, it always gives me pause. I know how these things are created, and it’s not good. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about irradiated vegetables or beakless chicks with overgrown breasts: our options are primarily franken food.

Margaret Atwood described a whole new level of Frank Food in her book Oryx & Crake. I quivered at the thought of her chicken fingers born in a lab. But, how different are our choices today? Genetically modified this, genetically modified that. My high school chemistry teacher claimed that if you make an orange on the level similar to nano-technology, ensuring all the molecules are there that it’d be the same thing as an orange grown in sunny Florida or California. I disagree. It’s not the same. The former orange is some idea of an orange. Some manufactured construction of what we think an orange should be. Not the orange from our earth with thousands of years of practice before it.

Frank food is not natural. And I wonder what happens to our bodies when we regularly put unnatural foods in it.

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Cookies & Pancakes

I made up a pancake recipe tonight. No oil. A little too much sugar, but I will cut it in half next time.

No Oil Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • 2 cups local, lightly pasteurized buttermilk (1 pint)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (will decrease to 1 tablespoon next time)
  • 1/2 teaspoon homemade pure bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup organic applesauce
  • 2 cups flour (1 1/2 cups hard red, organic flour; 1/2 cup unbleached white flour; all stoneground)
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup hand-picked, local, organic blueberries, frozen

I mix the eggs and buttermilk, quickly whisking. Then, I add the powdery items (sea salt, baking powder, sugar, vanilla), mixing until well incorporated. Quickly add and mix applesauce, flour, and oats. Stir in blueberries. Drop by the estimated quarter cup on to a hot non-stick skillet. If you use cast iron, make sure the pan is well seasoned. If sticking occurs, use oil or butter. Try not to get too distracted by the milk delivery so you can turn the pancakes at the right time!

The next recipe is one of my favorites, and now one of my family’s favorites. This is a recipe for my grandmother’s “no-bake cookies.” For the other learned folks out there, they can be called “on-top-of-the-stove cookies” as some cooking is done.

Clearly evidenced as the family favorite.
Clearly evidenced as the family favorite.

Grandma Pat’s No Bake Cookies

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (can add more as desired)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy works best)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups oatmeal (quick oats work best)

Boil for one minute: sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Add a pinch of salt, and peanut butter. Melt peanut butter. Add vanilla. Add oats in two parts, stirring until fully incorporated. Drop by the spoonful unto waxed paper. Makes more than 9 cups of cookies!

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Justified Nap

Trail Mix with Processed M&Ms
Giant bowl of trail mix includes: 2.5lbs of granola, 2lbs lightly salted peanuts, 1-2 C raisins, and two large packages of m&ms.

“And, no more ‘nap when he naps’, OK?” That’s what Levi’s doctor said during his 3 year check up. He also gave the advice of “no processed” food, so it is evident this is his catch-all advice and not specific to one situation over another. This post, for lack of a more clever thesis, is about advice.

I chuckled when his doctor said that. He doesn’t remember that I have Grave’s Disease, and he certainly didn’t know that my thyroid levels were coming down. I think I muttered (maybe just in my head), “We’ll see,” with a chuckle. Yes, I will take a nap thank you, when I am tired. Sometimes, dear doctor I operate on five hours of sleep, and napping while my dear Levi-bug naps, is necessary for everyone’s sanity.

The whole processed food thing was really entertaining. I blinked and looked at him, “Like what?” “We’re suggesting parents limit things like fruit roll ups (light goes off, ‘oh duh’) granola bars, etc.” I looked at him and said, “If I want a granola bar, I’ll make one myself.” He chuckled, “I don’t need to know how.”

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