Fresh is really best- a 'doh' moment

Everyone knows in theory that the fresher the vegetables, the better they are. But I think that many of us fall into the habit of buying a bit too many vegetables, storing them in the fridge, and using them as long as they haven't rotted away or become science experiments in some form. You know, things like carrots and celery, apples and other rather indestructible produce.

But once you see how produce does deteriorate, you start to wonder. Case in point I had some rhubarb stalks left over, and stored in the fridge for about a week after I bought them. (Normally I cook rhubarb right away, but it was cheap at the market so we'd bought more than we needed.) So, yesterday I took them out - they looked crisp and perfectly fine - and turned them into rhubarb crumble pie.

It was tasteless and terrible! It was like eating a rather stringy, bland mush. I've never had such a bad rhubarb, and I love rhubarb. We had a couple of mouthfuls and threw the rest away - it was that bad.

So now I'm looking all all those long-lifers in the fridge with a skeptical eye. Sure, carrots and celery may not change that much in taste...but they are surely leeching away nutrients and flavor day by day. And what about those stored apples that come out in the stores mysteriously in the middle of February? Okay, perhaps this is too obvious to even write about. But that awful, bland rhubarb really was an eyeopener...or is that a tastebud-opener...for me.

I guess that I've been judging 'freshness' with my eyes primarily. I've also gotten into the typical habit of shopping once or twice a week. That's the American way, after all. But in Japan for instance most people - well, most housewives - shop daily, or at least several times a day, and only buy what they need. Here in Switzerland in particular and Europe in general people used to shop like that but the advent of supermarkets and hypermarkets is changing that pattern.

It's really hard to shop every day, especially when you have to work. I'm going to at least try to keep the vegetable bins a bit less full and shop in smaller amounts though. No more huge economy-size bags of carrots anyway.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone in the USA, and Happy Whitsun / Pfingsten to many people in Europe!

Filed under:  fruit vegetables produce

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Learning how apples are kept in cold storage has kept me from eating apples since I was able to buy them in December in Ohio/Washington, when I could buy them from the person who grew them. And they were delicious.

I'm starting to wonder how long the spinach I cut on Saturday from our garden will last.

Katie, probably they will last quite long! Growing our own is really the best way to go...if only I had a less than black thumb :)

The only problem is that it won't last past today's lunch!

It's a tough compromise, though I guess it shouldn't be, between convenience and flavor/nutrition...

It's much more expensive, at least in the markets where I shop, to do something close to daily shopping for one (sometimes two) people: things are just packaged too big for that, and so some aging in the fridge is going to happen. I wonder how long the bag of carrots or bunch of celery I buy sits in the produce section of the supermarket before even making it to my fridge?

Now I'm curious about this issue, if the taste and nutritional value really do change..

apples have always been stored over winter, and if you get them direct from the market/grower then you still have a pretty good chance of them at least tasting good. in the old days it was in someone's cellar, now it's all a bit more high-tech, but the principle's the same. i remember when i was a kid (back when everything tasted better, right?) going to an apple farm, and the guy had big bins in big cold sheds, and his apples were pretty good.

i think once you have been spoiled by having a local market/a good fruit and veg shop it's pretty much impossible to go into the supermarket fruit and veg and actually buy stuff. it all looks so old, and it IS.

taste definitely changes over time, an extreme example of which is starchy things like potatoes: the germans make a big thing about eating the last of the "old" potatoes (from last year), and then comparing them with the "new" ones. of course if the ground is frozen, you can't grow potatoes over the winter, and if you are not importing them from the other hemisphere (in our grandparents' time that was not an option), then you do eat the "old" ones till they run out/the new ones are ready. for the record, the old ones are kinda sweet because some of the starch has converted to sugar.

i mostly just shop for me, and i reckon it's false economy to buy the big bag of carrots, even though it's cheaper than the "per kg/each" price. i'd rather pay a bit more now, and not throw anything away, and have it taste better because it hasn't been sitting in the "crisper" of the fridge for ages cos i can't eat fast enough.