Storage Tips: Tender Little Berries

Berries are delicious. They’re also fragile, fickle, little pricks. Really the best advice I can give you on this one is to eat em up, quick like. Alternately, go ahead and freeze them or turn them into a righteous compote that you can pour over everything: pancakes, ice cream, styrofoam packing peanuts, etc…

But because we all like to try and deny the inevitable necrosis of all things, here’s how to make ‘em last their longest, Death Becomes Her Style.

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THE HUGE ETERNAL DEBATE ABOUT BERRIES: TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
There’s two prevailing schools of thought on this subject, as per my titular hyperbole and ten minutes of internet research.

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT ONE
The first school of thought says DO NOT WASH YOUR BERRIES UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO PUT THEM DIRECTLY INTO YOUR MOUTH.

But DO sort through them and get rid of any berries that are smooshed, moldy, or just look a little bit iffy. Prioritize consuming the ones that look the ripest first and place those at the top with the least ripe at the bottom.
Place them all in an air tight glass container with a paper towel along the bottom. The less you have to stack em within the container the better because it means less bruising.

SCHOOL OF THOUGHT TWO
The other school of thought recommends washing berries in a water and vinegar solution prior to storing them. They say this helps kill off the mold spores and bacteria that are already taking hold, thereby keeping them vital longer.If you want to continue my Death Becomes Her metaphor (as I do) then think of this like the amazing, death destroying serum Ms Rossellini is dispensing.  BUT BE WARNED: much like the movie’s heroinesyou still have to take good care of your berries if you do this. Dry them diligently with a towel, maybe even spin them gently in a salad spinner. Package them in an air tight container in your refrigerator, preferably with a lining of paper towels, as per above. 

Using one of these two methods, blueberries can last ya nearly 2 weeks. Strawberries the same. Raspberries probably 4-5 days. Crunch Berries will last past the next ice age.

ONE LAST THOUGHT:

I know those ceramic berry containers they sell at the bougie home goods stores are freaking adorable, but they are the OPPOSITE of what is going to make your berries last the longest. They’re the Banana Boat Tanning Oil ™ of berry storage, so as Andre 3K would say, “Don’t do it! Think it through! Reconsider!” 

THE END.

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Storage Tips: Cukes, Zukes and Squarshes

(My grandfather adds an r into words like squash and wash. I can’t for the life of me figure out why.)

The cool thing about writing this is I get to troubleshoot issues I’m having and then pass the info along. For instance, my cucumbers from last week are looking a little…. well…let’s just say they could use some veggie Levitra.

So, without further ado:
CUKES
Cucumbers, like tomatoes, should not be stored in the fridge. If they are they start to get all wet and narsty. It’s actually best to keep them at room temperature, and if you absolutely must refrigerate them, do so only for 1-3 days and keep them on the top shelves of your fridge where it is less cold than at the bottom.

They also should be kept away from anything that emits ethylene such as bananas, melons and tomatoes.

ZUKES
Zuchinis also don’t want to be stored in the fridge, but rather at room temperature. If you must refrigerate them, they want to be placed in a perforated plastic bag and kept in the crisper bin for not more than 5 days.

SQUARSHES
Squashes, by contrast, DO want to go in the fridge. Ideally you will store them in an airtight plastic bag (most places recommend squeezing all the air out and wrapping the fruit tightly) and then storing them in the crisper bin.

It is not recommended to warsh your squarsh prior to storing them. I’m sure my Papaw would agree.

Storage Tips: Meal Planning

Caroline and Anthony’s Chalkboard

This idea comes from Core Group members Caroline and Anthony and is a great way to help you manage your share and plan meals for the week.

Keep a chalkboard or dry erase board in the kitchen on which you write down your weekly share. You can then write down menu ideas for each item and also keep running lists of groceries to get to supplement, etc… That way everyone can pitch in on ideas, shopping and planning. 
As you finish a veggie, cross it off! 

 

Storage Tips: Compost

Composting for the Erudite* Urbanite
 
Composting. It’s great, right? Use something from the earth, allow it to return to it and start the whole cycle all over again. Hakuna Matata. That’s all fine and good when, say, you can have a big ol’ heaping pile of rotting foodstuffs out behind the ol’ barn or something, but it is not quite so pleasurable to do when your apartment is the size of an english muffin. Or is prone to roaches. Or both.
 
But! Don’t despair. If you want to compost here’s a quick and easy tip from our Core Group Member Laura Scheck! As you create kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc…. (here’s a very detailed list of what can and can’t be composted) place them in ziplock bags or another suitable airtight container in your freezer. This will keep them from stinking up your place or drawing bugs, and that way you can accumulate a week’s worth of scraps at a time.
 
Then, simply drop your compostable goods at one of the many compost sites within participating community gardens, or at any Grow NYC Greenmarket location— one of which is at Grand Army Plaza every Saturday from 8-3:30.
 
 
 

*Note: The writer of this email is in no way positing herself, nor this post to be, in fact, erudite. She was merely searching for a catchy title.

 

Storage Tips: Tomatoes

People for the Ethical Treatment of Tomatoes

OR “Good God, why are you still keeping them in the fridge?”

So Tomato season is about to be upon us. I don’t know about ya’ll, but a fresh summertime tomato is pretty much my raison d’etre. Everything else is me just waiting around to die.

…Hm…. That got dark.

Anywayyyyy.. Tomatoes should NEVER be kept in the fridge. There’s science that can explain why, but essentially it makes them mealy and ruins their flavor quickly, which is a crime punishable in several provinces of Italy. So just don’t do it!

Instead?  Keep them at room temperature in a fruit bowl or similar vessel. Line the bowl with a paper towel on the bottom, and set them stems up. Their stem area is the most fragile so don’t stack them, and be sure to pick them up and move em around in the bowl each day so they don’t sit too long on one side and start to rot.

Don’t squeeze em, lest you bruise them! Keep their temperature as consistent as possible.  Only leave them in the sun if they need to ripen, and keep them away from heat sources like ovens.

In other words, treat them like fragile little babies.

And then slice them up and put them on sliced bread spread copiously with mayonnaise and gobble them up with a savage fury.

The end.

Storage Tips: Mason Jar Salads

How you keeping up with all those greens? Drowning in salad yet?

If so, then perhaps consider this idea, which can be found on nearly every blog that has the word “Mommy” in the title:

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Make a whole set of these on Tuesday evenings and set them in the fridge. Every morning grab a takie for work, but be sure to keep it upright or else the dressing will cause the greens to wilt. Come lunchtime, shake it up and dump it in a bowl… and BOOM. LUNCH.

 

Storage Tips: Growing Herbs

By giving us small potted plants as opposed to pre-cut herbs, Farmer Ted, in his infinite wisdom, is giving us a gift that keeps on giving. All you have to do is keep it alive. 


YOU: “But potted herbs? I can’t grow things! What am I supposed to do with these?”

ME: “Hey, hey… pop a chill pill and relax: You Can Do This. Here are some low-effort, decidedly unfancy potting tips for the verdantly challenged.

Step 1: Pick a vessel.

Don’t think you have any pots? Sure you do. Look in that recycling bin over there. See that 2 liter empty plastic water bottle? That empty coffee tin? That Sapporo tall boy can? That old 20oz tin can of beans? Rinse that puppy out, cut the top off (if needed), poke or drill a couple holes in the bottom of that sucker so that water will drain out, turn it right side up and stick it on a little saucer…know what I call that? A freaking flower pot.

Step 2: Get some dirt.

Ok. Admittedly this part can be a challenge in the urban jungle, especially if you’re not trying to get a lot of dirt. But you have options: some hardware stores will sell it by the cup full or in small bags. Or go in on a bigger bag with a fellow CSAer.
Alternately, the Lower East Side Ecology Center sells compost in Union Square which your herbs would most likely love to live in all on it’s own. Or if you wanna go hard/cheap about it, get out there on the street and dig up a bit of soil out of a hole in the sidewalk or next to a tree.
Regardless of origin, the thing to be aware of here is that your plant needs good drainage and air around it’s roots, so if your wet dirt clumps easily into tight, dense fistfuls when you smoosh it, then it probably needs a little something extra to fluff it up and make it drain better. Fancy folks get perlite or vermiculite to mix in.  Know what else will work? Freakin’ styrofoam packing peanuts and/or street gravel. Organic they are not. Effective, they are.
Step 3:  Put your plant in the pot with some dirt.
Yup. A little gravel, styrofoam peanuts or broken glass placed at the bottom of the pot can help keep things draining well. Throw some dirt in, stick your plant in, pour some more dirt in, water it, stick it in a window with a good amount of light but not too much.
You generally want at least 4 hours of direct light, but harsh, hot afternoon sun can often be too much for potted plants. So try to find a good balance.
Don’t know when to water it? Stick your finger in the dirt about a half an inch deep…
Does it feel dry? Water it.
Does it still feel wet? Don’t water it.
If the leaves start to get all yellowy chances are you’re overwatering (Rookie Mistake #1)
If it’s all shrivelly and wilty like Mr Burns in the nude then chances are it’s really thirsty. Water it quick before it dies!
Step 4: Reap the copious bounty that is your now thriving potted herb plant.

Wow, how cool! You grew some basil/cilantro/mint/whatever and it’s now, like, a foot tall or something! So cut some off and use it!The idea here is that you want to promote new growth and you want your herbs to bush rather than spire. When they get all long and gangly they aren’t so hot on leaf production. So the best method is to pinch or snip small amounts from all over the plant, rather than cutting large sections off one stem a time. This kind of “hair cut” method will prompt it to double it’s leaves on each stem, thereby getting all bushy ‘n’ stuff. Trim or pinch right above where there are new leaves, so that they can be the new “top” of that stem.  LIKE THIS

Proviso:
Yeah, sometimes it really can be this easy. Sure, sometimes it can not. These are general statements and all plants have different needs and everyone’s homes and lifestyles vibe with certain plants.  But hey, it’s worth a shot!
Give a man a bunch of basil and he’ll make pesto once. Give him a basil plant and he’ll have pesto for life.

Storage Tips: Radishes, Beets, Carrots & More

Give Those Roots a Buzz Cut
And no, I’m not suggesting you shave ?uestlove…

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What You’ll Need:

  • Some plastic ziplock bags, a sealable tupperware, or some of those green bags they sell on TV
  • Some paper or cloth towels.
  • A knife or kitchen shears
  • Radishes, Beets, Turnips, Carrots, etc… with their greens still intact

Directions
I know, I know: it is so satisfying to receive vegetables that still have their lovely greens intact. It sits somewhere on the emotional spectrum between feeling like Bugs Bunny and Julia Child, BUT storing them that way in your fridge will only lead to heartache and ruin. The greens of root vegetables, which are good eatin’ on their own, pull moisture away from the roots, leaving you with shriveled little nasty roots and rubbery, floppy greens.  Double Fail.

So here’s what to do:

STEP 1:
Cut the greens off the top off your veggies either entirely or leaving 1/2-1” of stem at the top. (This is especially helpful for beets if you’re going to roast and peel them later and need a handle.) Preserve the greens like other salad greens: by wrapping them in a paper or cloth towel and placing them in a sealable ziplock bag in your fridge.
STEP 2:
The roots themselves can also be stored in a ziplock bag with paper towels. They should last about 1 week that way.

OR if they start looking shrivelly, try restoring them by placing them in a jar of cold water in the fridge.

OR if you wanna be all Alton Brown Overachiever about it, you can start a makeshift root cellar drawer full of sand in your crisper bin for these and all future root veggies.

AND if you have not yet eaten garden fresh radishes sliced on bread and butter… well then you simply have not lived, Sir.

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Storage Tips: Greens

Bag them Greens, ya’ll!
Fresh, early season greens totally rule… that is, until they start looking like that gross lady in the bathtub from The Shining. Here’s how you avoid that.

What You’ll Need:
  • Some plastic ziplock bags, a sealable tupperware, or some of those green bags they sell on TV…if that’s how you roll.
  • Some paper or cloth towels.
  • Greens, duh

Directions
The major principle here is trying to maintain and regulate moisture and keep anything that may already be rotting from affecting the rest of the bunch. Greens, obviously, have a lot of water in them. You want them to be able to retain that, without having much water on the surface of their leaves. Excessive moisture causes them to stick to the sides of the storage container or one another, thereby rotting more quickly.  You also want to seal them in an airtight bag so they don’t get zapped of moisture once nestled in your fridge.
 
For the Overachiever: 
Technically speaking, the best practice is to sort, trim, wash and very diligently dry your greens before wrapping them and storing them. They’ll last the longest, and it will also reduce the amount of prep work you have come dinnertime. But don’t take my word for it: Uber Detailed, Type-A instructions for doing all of that are included here
 
For the C- Student:
Dude, just rip off anything semi-gross, wrap that sucker in a paper towel and throw it in a plastic ziplock bag. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. Like this:
 
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Prospect Park CSA in the News!

The Prospect Heights Patch covered our launch, check out the article!

Members can pick up their shares from Fountain Studios (604 Grand Street between Bergen Street and Saint Marks Avenue), a group of artist studios that regularly  hosts gallery shows and other community events.

“We want to highlight the CSA, but also this local neighborhood spot,” Santogade told me.

Santogade said that a fundamental reason for having a CSA is “the idea of creating community.” She worries that although the concept of a CSA is becoming increasingly popular, people often forget the community building aspect of the project.

“This is not just about picking up food,” she said. “It offers a way to get to know your neighborhood and neighbors.”

Indeed! If you haven’t already, join us!