Here at Unicorn we put a lot of effort into sourcing the freshest possible fruit and vegetables, and further effort into storing them appropriately so that they reach you in the best condition. Having taken the produce home, there are a few extra things that you can do to keep it at its best. If you want any more information, please speak to a member of staff in the Veg area.
We’re aware how frustrating it can be when faced with green bananas or rock-hard avocados, but this is often how they arrive with us – ripe fruit is harder to transport and liable to spoil before even making it to the shelves. So it’s likely that you’ll need to ripen some of these fruits when you get home:
- avocados & pears
- bananas & melons
- mangos & other stone fruit
- kiwis & pineapples
- custard apples
IN ORDER TO SPEED UP RIPENING, put the fruit in a closed paper bag at room temperature. The bag traps the ethylene gas the fruit produces &, with warmth, speeds up the ripening process. Adding a piece of ripe fruit such as a tomato helps too.
IN ORDER TO SLOW DOWN RIPENING, keep your fruit in the fridge.
Be careful, however:
- refrigeration can adversely affect taste & texture of some fruit (especially tomatoes). If fruit is chilled, try bringing it to room temperature before eating.
- the ripening process for some fruit (especially tropical, e.g. banana, mango) mustn’t take too long. If they chill too long they won’t ripen properly at all (if you’ve ever ended up with a sad, grey looking banana, that’s probably why).
Storing your veg
Some veg are best stored cold & dry in a brown paper bag or loose in the fridge:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- cucumbers & courgettes
- broad beans
Some veg don’t have to be in the fridge, as long as they are still cool & dry:
- potatoes **covered to prevent exposure to light
- onions, garlic, shallots **best kept in airy conditions e.g. hung in nets
- squash, pumpkins
Some veg are best kept cold & moist in a plastic bag or lidded pyrex box:
- broccoli + caulis
- french beans
- leafy cabbages + sprouts
- lettuce + salad leaves
- spinach + beet leaves
- carrots, turnips & parsnips
- leeks & spring onions
If you’ve bought a lettuce on a warm day and don’t return home for an hour, that lettuce will have warmed up. It’s best to cool it down and keep it moist by spraying it with cold water and putting it in a plastic bag (the bags we pack our dried goods in can be re-used for this!) or lidded pyrex box in the fridge.
Above all: KEEP YOUR GREENS MOIST!
…as well as carrots and other roots
Veg spoils quickly if it’s not handled & stored correctly. Over the years, we’ve learned to watch out for:
- warmth – e.g. just a few minutes in direct sunlight, or a hot car-boot, can significantly reduce the keeping quality of tender veg.
- moisture loss – some veg lose moisture after harvest &, if unchecked, the vegetable goes dry & limp.
We’ve found that the best defence against both of these problems is COLD WATER, PLASTIC BAGS/GLASS CONTAINERS and REFRIGERATION. Spraying the vegetables with cold water and storing them in a plastic bag in the fridge will help keep them for longer.
A great way to keep bunched herbs fresh (upto 2 weeks) is to stand them with their stalks in a glass of water – like a bouquet! Change the water after several days if it starts to discolour. As far as temperature goes, basil prefers to be at room temp, parsley’s not fussy, and coriander likes it cool. If you want to refrigerate, make a loose ‘tent’ over the bunch with a small re-used plastic bag.
We’ve found plastic bags are the best way to keep in moisture and retain a cool temperature, but we don’t want to encourage extra production with so many bags already in circulation. However, we’re keen for our veg to be looked after in the best way, so try reusing your own plastic bags for shopping & storage. Most can be washed & re-used many times before recycling. Alternatives are plastic boxes or lidded pyrex or steel containers, although most things are better with a little bit of air circulation.
Watch out for a too-cold fridge! We keep our veg fridge at 6°- 8°C, but the recommendation for a domestic fridge is 2°- 5°C (to keep processed/cooked products safe). This is ok for fruit & veg, but below 2°, or next to the freezer bit, may spoil some things- e.g. tender leaves.
Must be cold! We use mist sprays at Unicorn (found at garden centres) but you can easily use your hands or a sink of cold water to ensure your veg stays moist.