Jeannie M. Leonard
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent
Summer brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember these tips when purchasing produce at the grocery store, nearby farmers’ markets or picking from your garden.
- You should select fruits and vegetables that are not bruised, shriveled, moldy or slimy. If vegetables or fruits are pre-packaged, be sure the surfaces are not bruised or moldy.
- Purchase only what you need. For optimum flavor and nutritional value, you need to use fruits and vegetables within a few days.
- You need to promptly store any produce that needs to be refrigerated.
- Be sure to wash produce under cool, running water just before you use it. This applies to all fruits and vegetables, even if you don’t eat the rind or skin, such as melons and oranges. Washing a melon can help remove any bacteria that could be transferred onto the inside fruits when the melon is sliced open with a knife.
- Leafy greens, such as lettuce, should be rinsed before refrigerating to maintain crispness. Paper towels place between the greens will slow deterioration.
- Do not use detergent when washing fruits and vegetables. Use a vegetable brush to scrub hearty vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, if you want to eat the fiber-and-nutrient-rich skin.
- Be sure to keep refrigerators clean and cold. Cover and refrigerate produce you have cut. Refrigerator temperatures should be between 37 and 39 degrees F.
- Always clean surfaces, utensils, and hands before handling fresh produce.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing food.
- Read and follow label instructions such as “keep refrigerated” or “use by” dates.
- Keep prepared fruit salads and other cut produce items in the refrigerator until just before serving.
- Discard cut produce items if they have been out of the refrigerator for four hours or more.
By following a few guidelines in the kitchen, you and your family enjoy goodness from the garden safely.