Ten ways to get fresh
1. The best way to get the freshest produce is to grow your own. If you can’t, the next best thing is to buy fresh, local produce. The longer produce is stored, and the further it has to travel, the less nutritional value it provides. About 10 per cent is lost – particularly vitamin C – in the journey from farm to table.
2. Purchase food in season. Learn what’s available month to month and you’ll avoid buying produce that’s been in cold storage for long periods. Also take advantage of produce gluts, when retailers often sell items more cheaply.
3. Buy food in small quantities and use it quickly, even if you have to shop more than once a week. It’s worthwhile, because you eat produce that’s as fresh and nutritious as possible.
4. Handle fragile vegetables and herbs with care, as they bruise easily and rapidly deteriorate.
5. Brush up on correct storage procedures – they help maintain freshness. Your grocer and butcher can advise you on the best methods and will often provide leaflets on storage ideas and preparation tips.
6. Prepare vegetables just before eating or cooking. Once cut, they start to lose vitamins. Soaking cut vegetables in water also leaches nutrients. Seal cut, unused portions tightly in a plastic bag in the fridge.
7. Ripen fruit at room temperature away from direct sunlight, which can destroy nutrients such as vitamins A and C. Refrigeration inactivates the ripening process.
8. Eat meat and fish within 2 days of purchase. Refrigerate or freeze fish as soon as possible – the high fatty acid content deteriorates quickly. Always store meat and fish in the lowest part of the fridge or in the chiller compartment to stop juices dripping onto other refrigerator contents, such as vegetables.
9. When shopping, think about your week’s menu and plan to eat the most perishable items first. Leafy greens and herbs have a high water content and tend to go limp and lose their crunch very quickly, while ripe berries and stone fruit bruise easily. Root vegetables, pumpkin, broccoli, apples and oranges, for example, are hardier and last longer if stored correctly.
10. Drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices within 3–4 hours of squeezing. The longer you leave juice exposed to the air, the more it becomes oxidised and begins to lose important nutritional value. Consider adding some of the pulp back in – it’s high in fibre.