If you are more used to the convenience of packaged or frozen food but want to enhance the freshness and nutrients of your cooking, here are a few quick tips on how to buy, prepare, store and cook fresh vegetables and herbs.
Buying and Storing Fresh Herbs
When shopping for herbs, choose the freshest-looking sprigs you can find. Ideally, they should be bright green, with leaves that aren’t limp or discoloured. Herbs that have woody stems, like rosemary and thyme, keep well in the fridge. All you need to do is wrap them in a damp paper towel and bag them. Herbs with soft stems, such as cilantro or tarragon, aren’t as durable. Snip their stems and keep them upright in your fridge in a sealed Mason jar with an inch or two of water. Basil doesn’t need refrigeration, so it can just stand on your window sill in a glass of water. In each case, change the water often. If you store them this way, they’ll last for weeks. However, be sure to discard any that have wilted or become discoloured.
Using and Preparing Fresh Herbs
In order to expand your cooking horizons, taste the food you’re cooking and then taste or sniff a few herbs. To make sure flavours stay bright and fresh in your cooking, when you find a combination that appeals to you, snip a few sprigs and add them shortly before serving. If you have an excess of any one herb, you could make large batches of pesto, herb omelette, persillade or herbed butter.
Buying and Storing Fresh Vegetables
When choosing fresh vegetables, always go for the fresh-looking ones. Avoid any that look wilted or flabby. Leafy greens, from the most delicate lettuce to the hardiest of kale, are easy to choose. One or two holes from insects are acceptable, but avoid any with bruised, browned or discoloured areas. You can keep your greens in special air-permeable storage bags or simply wrap them in a damp paper towel and leave them in a regular bag with an air hole.
Juicy vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, should be plump and heavy for their size. Avoid any that have soft bruised spots or shrivelled, wrinkled areas. Vegetables that aren’t refrigerated at the store can sit out in a bowl until they’re cut. After that, will they need refrigeration.
To get the best out of your greens, use them within a week of purchase. Juicy vegetables should be used or discarded within 7-10 days, or when they begin to shrivel and develop soft spots. Root vegetables will keep for several weeks, and some will even last for months.
Using and Preparing Fresh Vegetables
Sturdier greens including spinach and kale are salad-ready but also make excellent soups and dips. You can use red, ripe tomatoes as the base for a tasty fresh salsa or combine them with other fresh vegetables in a cooling, Spanish-style gazpacho. You can also use vegetables in tasty smoothies, which can incorporate a surprising range of vegetables for light, nutritious summer refreshment.
If you are feeling more adventurous and would like to learn more about growing your own fresh herbs and vegetables in your garden or kitchen, click here.