Produce Basics—Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

vegetables

Preparing fresh produce can be easy when you have the information you need and a few skills. The Produce Basics information found on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app describe how to store, clean, and prepare various fruits and vegetables. Check out this link: spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics/. Search for Spend Smart. Eat Smart. at your app store and download the free app today!

 

Buying Fresh Produce? Keep It Fresh?

Fruits and vegetables come in terrific colors and flavors. Just as their nutritional benefits differ, the way in which you store fresh produce differs too! The required storage temperature and humidity level varies depending on the type of fruit or vegetable. Avoid placing produce in a sealed plastic bag on your countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off-odors and decay. Use the guides below to store your garden bounty.

fresh produceStore these at room temperature, making sure they are clean, dry, well ventilated, and away from direct sunlight:

  • Tomatoes, onions, potatoes, melons, bananas, pumpkins, and winter squash

Ripen these on the counter, then store in the refrigerator:

  • Avocado, kiwifruits, peaches, nectarines, pears, and plums

Most other fresh produce keeps best stored in a clean refrigerator at 40°F or below.

  • Store fruit in a different refrigerator crisper drawer than vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas, which can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.

Source: Amy Peterson and Alice Henneman from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Superfoods: More than Kale and Quinoa

Though there is no legal or medical definition for “superfoods,” the term is typically used to describe foods that are high in nutrients and antioxidants and low in fat, sugar, and sodium. Eating these foods may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. The following “superfoods” are packed with vitamins and minerals and are versatile in recipes.

Cruciferous Vegetables – This category includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, which are good sources of fiber and vitamin C and are easily added to a stir fry or a casserole. Substitute shredded cabbage for iceberg lettuce on tacos. Broccoli is also great for snacking raw with a low-fat dip.

Citrus Fruits – Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, and the ugli fruit are included in this group. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. These fruits can be enjoyed as a snack or tossed in a fruit salad or a leafy green salad. Squeeze the fruit to make fresh juice and to replace the flavor of salt in recipes.

Green, Leafy Vegetables – Spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, arugula, and other dark green lettuces are nutrition powerhouses. They are packed with fiber and are a high source of vitamins A and C. Enjoy these greens shredded in a salad, sautéed with olive oil and garlic, or added to soup or casseroles.

Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are good sources of fiber and vitamin C. Add them to cereal or oatmeal or enjoy them for a snack. Try adding them to a leafy green salad for a different twist.

Beans – Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, and navy beans are a few of the more popular bean varieties. Beans are fat free, high in dietary fiber, and a good source of folate and potassium. Enjoy them in bean burritos, black bean burgers, bean salads, or bean soups.

Source: Fruits and Veggies More Matters, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/

Buying and Selling Local Foods

produce farmers market vegetablesFarmers market and food stand season brings many opportunities to sample “pride of Iowa” foods. Most people assume that foods “allowed” to be sold require inspection. Regulatory agencies (e.g., Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Consumer Food Safety Bureau) have the responsibility to inspect foods that present a greater risk for foodborne illness, rather than all foods.

For example, at farmers markets, vendors of meats and cheeses will have prepared their foods in a licensed processing facility. Fruit-based jams and jellies can be home-processed whereas vegetable-based jams, such as pepper jam, must be processed in a licensed facility. The difference is due to ingredients that increase the risk of foodborne illness if the product is not properly prepared. Most baked goods are okay for sale, but vendors must have: a list of ingredients, preparer’s contact information, place where food was prepared, notice of common food allergens (like peanuts or soy) that may have been present when the item was made.

When a food stand is preparing or selling what are considered “higher risk” foods (e.g., not pre-packaged foods), it should have a temporary food establishment license. This means the Department of Inspection and Appeals Consumer Food Safety Bureau or a county-level counterpart has inspected the food stand and issued the temporary license.

Are you interested in starting your own home-based food business?

Read “Starting a Home-Based Food Business in Iowa” (https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Starting-a-Home-Based-Food-Business-in-Iowa). This publication provides an overview of what should be considered, including regulatory aspects.

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