What’s Fresh Right Now
Let’s bring in the New Year by educating ourselves on seasonal fruit and veggies. An essential part of living a full life is knowing your produce, which ones are in season, and how to store and prepare them. Impress yourself with some new skills this year by following this guide to know how to have the freshest ingredients this time of year. As you read down the list, you’ll see a pattern surface that makes it easy to catch on, making you a pro in no time.
How to Choose: You’re looking for a smooth complexion of red or yellow coloration that’s firm in your grip with bright, vibrant green leaves that aren’t wilted.
How to Store: Cut their leaves off and leave an inch coming off the top to keep them fresh longer. Do not wash or scrub them until they are ready for use. Damaging their skin exposes them to environmental damage which causes rot. Leaves can be stored separated from the beet. Wrap the beet in paper and place in a plastic bag in the fridge. They can last up to a few weeks.
Recipe: Lemon Roasted Beets with Feta
How to Choose: The broccoli heads should be very green with compact florets and stems should be firm. The darker the green, the richer in vitamin C. The top portion should be obviously greener than the stock portion. Avoid any yellow coloring which indicates the onset of flowering.
How to Store: Broccoli should always be stored in your fridge with some moisture and air flow. One option is to place the broccoli in a glass the way you would a bouquet of flowers. The water should only rise about an inch and should be changed daily. A bag with holes can be placed over the head of florets to allow air flow. This can keep broccoli fresh up to seven days. Another way is simply to wrap loosely in a damp towel and place in your vegetable drawer. Again, minimal moisture is key. The last option you could do for easy storage is placing it in a bag with holes until ready to use.
Recipe: Spicy Italian Broccoli
How to Choose: Brussels sprouts follow the ‘firm’ trend you see with these veggies. Fresh sprouts are tightly wrapped shut and very hard. This vegetable tends to be sweeter in the winter time, and it’s recommended that you buy smaller bulbs to make cooking easier, plus these tend to be sweeter. As they age the leaves become spotted, open and yellow. Avoid this appearance when shopping for fresh ones.
How to Store: They are best kept in a tightly closed plastic bag in the fridge and are good to use for up to a week after purchase.
How to Choose: Cauliflower is similar to broccoli. It should feel heavy with compact florets that feel firm and are white in color. Avoid browning or spots. It should also not have a strong smell if freshly harvested so let your nose be your guide on this one.
How to Store: Make sure to take it out of the tight plastic wrap if that’s how you bought it. This will trap moisture and will age the vegetable much quicker, and we want to preserve shelf life. Store in a loose plastic bag with a paper towel inside to capture excess moisture. They should always stand with stems down to keep moisture from getting to the head, which can cause rotting. They keep fresh for about seven days.
Recipe: Cauliflower Chickpea Patties
How to Choose: Check leaves of the herbs to make sure there are no holes to indicate insect damage. Look for herbs that stand tall and are not wilting over.
How to Store: Loosely wrap fresh herbs in a damp paper towel and place in a zip lock bag in your crisper drawer in the fridge.
Recipe: Winter Herb Kvass
How to Choose: You want to look for that rich dark green color (do you see the trend here?) with leaves that are fully intact, coarse and a little stiff. If you are looking for tender and milder kale, look for smaller leaves. Flavor in kale comes with age, so store longer for stronger flavorful kale. If you see holes, this indicates insect damage and should be avoided. Also avoid wilted leaves, which can alter the vegetable’s flavor and is an indication they have not been stored properly, or they were sitting on the shelf for too long.
How to Store: If you would like that milder flavor, you want to use your kale within one to two days. Store unwashed in damp paper towel and a plastic bag. You can also freeze kale to last four to six weeks or blanch the vegetable before freezing to last you up to twelve months. Make sure to use freezer bags and let out any excess air before freezing.
How to Choose: A ripe mandarin will be firm with a little give. They should have a bright citrus smell to them. You can smell them properly by holding one an inch or so away from your nose. Mandarins have thin skin, and when they’re ripe, it feels loose, but when it’s tight, this means the fruit is drying out. Ripe citrus fruit will give you that sweet juicy flavor you’re looking for while older fruit past it’s shelf life will taste bitter and dried out.
How to Store: Store them in a dark, cool area for a few days, then move to the fridge to extend their shelf life a couple of weeks.
Recipe: Orange Vinaigrette
How to Choose: Mushrooms appear very dry and uniform when they are fresh. If you spot light fuzz on their heads, this is a good sign they haven’t been handled too much and is a benefit to the consumer. They should also feel light in weight. If you have a chance to see one open, make sure the gills are paper like and dry. Avoid mushrooms that are bruised, shriveling or slimy.
How to Store: Rule of thumb is to keep them dry, so storing them in a paper bag in your fridge is ideal. Plastic will trap moisture, and they will rot.
Recipe: Healthy Mushroom Soup
How to Choose: When it comes to oranges, the juicier, the better. Obviously, we cannot bite into one before choosing it so instead use your best judgment on how heavy it feels. The heavier it is, the more juice it’s packing. Like our mandarin friends, you want to smell the orange for freshness. Good navel oranges will smell like orange peel. The skin should be uniform in orange color all around. Any discoloring means damage. Also, feel the skin to be sure it feels tight throughout the entire fruit. If it feels loose, that means it’s not attached to the inside and could indicate rotting or drying out. Also, like most produce, you want to avoid any shriveling.
How to Store: Ripe oranges can be stored at room temperature for about four days before consumption. Oranges needing to be stored longer because they are still green or not ready to eat can be stored in the fridge. To store them for up to a few weeks, keep moisture out and wrap them individually with paper.
Recipe: Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad
How to Choose: At first glance, a ripe pomegranate should have angles. These fruits are not round when they’re ripe like some of the others we have gone over. You’ll also notice the rind will glisten or shine. Smooth texture is a good indicator the fruit is still in it’s prime. And then, of course, you want to pick it up and make sure it feels heavy which means the seeds are full of juice. Squeeze gently all around to make sure there are no soft spots of bruises.
How to Store: If you want to store without deseeding for up to two months, place in the fridge. If you want to use them within a few weeks, you can keep them in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. If you want to keep them in your kitchen for months, they need to be properly prepared to be frozen. Because the seeds are full of juice, a great way to do this is to deseed the fruit in a large bowl of water to easily separate the seeds (which will sink) and the rind (which will float). Spread out the seeds on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Once they’re frozen, you can put them in a plastic bag altogether and freeze for use later. If you freeze them directly together into the bag, they will freeze to each other into clumps and after they defrost they will burst.
How to Choose: If the vegetables have stems and leaves attached, look for bright green leaves and firm stems. The vegetables should be very hard, indicating freshness. Like our other vegetables and fruits on this list, look out for bruising or blemishes.
How to Store: You want to keep them in a cool, dark, humid area. Ideally, they store the best in the dirt, but in your refrigerator is fine, just keep them covered in a bag to preserve moisture.
How to Choose: For the most part these bad boys are easy to choose. Make sure they don’t have any white strings growing off them which indicate the aging process is setting in and they will be too tough. Make sure the skin is completely intact. Any minor cuts will spoil the whole potato.
How to Store: Keeping these in your refrigerator is going to speed up the life span so with these you want to keep them in a dry place in your pantry to last you a few weeks.
Recipe: Sweet Potato Pancakes
How to Choose: For unshelled walnuts, you want to look for a smooth outer surface, light brown coloring, and that all are uniform and free of any damage. For shelled walnuts, look for crispness and avoid shrivel. They should always feel heavy to you. You should be able to smell their nuttiness and if they smell peculiar then put them back.
How to Store: Walnuts can go bad quickly due to their fatty content, so keep them in an airtight container and although the pantry is fine, storing them in the fridge can keep them fresh for up to six months while the freezer can keep them fresh for up to a year.
Recipe: Mushroom and Walnut Pâté
How to Choose: The freshest almonds that will last you the longest are those tightly packaged to avoid any environmental damage. Again, they should be uniform in color and relatively hard with no shriveling. Fresh almonds smell nutty and sweet.
How to Store: Nuts have a high shelf life. Almonds should be kept away from sunlight in a dry place, kept in a tightly sealed container. To prolong their freshness, you can also refrigerate.
Recipe: Almond Coconut Energy Bars
How to Choose: When pistachios are perfect for eating, their shell will split at one end; look for this indicator when choosing your pistachios. The nut themselves should be a bright green color which indicates it’s at its flavor peak. Their shells are naturally gray but some are dyed red, green or white to hide imperfections, and these should be avoided.
How to Store: If you are going to eat them within a few days of purchase, you can keep them in a bag on your counter for easy access. If you want to store them longer, keep them in an airtight container in your refrigerator. They do not freeze well but will last in your refrigerator up to three months.
Recipe: Pistachio-Crusted Halibut
How to Choose: There are lots of types of squash to choose from, but their key indicators for ripeness are the same; color, stem, shell, and weight. Each type has a different color to look out for, but in general, you want to look for those rich in color. Avoid shiny surfaces which indicate it was picked too early. Their skin should be matte, hard to dig your nail into, and blemish free. Stems should be attached, firm, and dry. When you pick it up, it should feel surprisingly heavy.
How to Store: A great trick to make this fruit sweeter and resist rot is to cure them to harden their shells and bring out their natural sugars. To prolong their shelf life, they should be kept at low temperatures (under 55 degrees) and kept dry.