Summertime is the peak for fresh vegetables. Its bounty is any cook’s dream. Yet people often struggle to pick produce at its prime. Today we will run through how to pick and store some staple vegetables. However, there are a few rules we can follow for all produce. While buying at the supermarket is fine, during summer, it is much preferable to purchase produce at a local farmer’s market. Not only do you support the local economy, but you are getting your vegetables straight from the farmer. Also, try not to buy produce that is not in season and if possible, cook with what grows in your region for top quality.
Onions are a staple in almost every savory dish. When picking an onion, look for a dry and tight skin. A little bit of skin sticking off is ok but as soon as you feel moisture, know that mold is close behind. To store, place them in a cool, dark, and dry place but never in the refrigerator.
Where there are onions, there are often carrots. Eaten raw or cooked, carrots are wonderfully versatile. When shopping for carrots, look for firm and crunchy. They should be of a healthy size but not too big (as they are less sweet). If the carrots have leaves on top, leave them on until ready to use. They help the carrots stay fresh longer. Store them in a bag, in the refrigerator, and avoid direct sunlight.
Tomatoes are one of the hardest vegetables (yes, I know they are actually fruit) to pick at a supermarket. That is because most of the tomatoes you find at the megamart are shipped from miles away. Tomatoes are a delicate fruit and when transported, often become flavorless. That is why tomatoes are best purchased locally, straight from the farm. A ripe tomato should be firm but feel juicy when lightly pressed. And know your varieties as applications differ greatly. Big, juicy beefsteak tomatoes are great in thick slices for hamburgers or in salsas and bruschettas. Cherry and grape tomatoes are wonderful for salads. Roma tomatoes tend to be less flavorful but are great for making sauces. Store underripe tomatoes on the counter. If your tomato is at peak ripeness, you can store it in the refrigerator, but you should eat them as soon as possible.
With garlic, the younger it is, the sweeter it will be. That is why when selecting garlic, we want a nice tight skin. We want to avoid seeing sprouting, green shoots coming out of the top. To store garlic, place it on the counter or in a dry and cool place. Again, moisture is the enemy.
Summer is prime time for a variety of greens. From spinach to arugula, summer is the best time for a salad. Look for greens that are vibrant and looking healthy. Before use, be sure to wash and dry your greens (if not prewashed). The best way to store a head of greens is to wrap them in a damp paper towel. Place them in a plastic bag before refrigerating.
Eggplants have so many uses and are great this time of year. Look for a firm, but not hard, eggplant as well as a smooth and shiny skin. Wrinkles are a sign of age. Eggplants can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, but we recommend you use them within a few days of purchasing. Try out Roasted Eggplant and Butternut Squash Soup for those rainy, overcast summer days.