For so many of us, the winter months mean our gardens are done for the season and our local farmer’s markets are selling nothing but Christmas Trees and preserves. This means fresh food has to travel to get to us. Of course. This is the modern age where we can have strawberries in December. But how long are they going to stay fresh? The shelf life of these fresh fruits and vegetables has diminished before we’ve even purchased it.
So let’s get smart about how to buy and handle our fresh food to reduce waste (spoiled, rotten food) and naturally preserve its healthy nutrients during the winter months. For top notch information, I’ve called on nutrition and lifestyle experts to guide us through best practices for extending the shelf life of our fresh foods during winter.
1. Buy foods that travel well and store well
Organic gardening expert, Christy Wilhelmi, Founder of Gardenerd recommends buying winter squash such as pumpkins, delicata squash, acorn squash, butternut squash; and root crops such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, and even radishes last along time.
Side note, Reduction Rebels – I’m planning on decorating a baking pumpkin this year for Halloween and then using it for a Thanksgiving pie. That’s the kind of fresh lifespan you can get from winter squash.
2. Use Natural Ingredients to Preserve
Nutrition and health expert, and licensed and Board Certified Professional Wellness Coach, Jackie Keller from NutriFit uses natural acidifying ingredients, like lemon juice, citric acid and vinegars, to add shelf life to foods.
3. Have You Tried Fermenting?
Precautions: Whether adult or child, it is recommended that those people new to fermented foods add them into their diets slowly since their guts and digestive systems will not be used to the bacteria. Even a small spoonful to test the waters before working up to a quarter or half cup serving works fine during the acclimation process.
4. The Right Recipe Can Make a Healthy Difference
Food and mom blogger Jessica Fisher from Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats wrote Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook (NYM Series), (affiliate link) full of 200 freezer-friendly meals that you can make ahead and that will keep for an incredible amount of time. These are not your typical casseroles full of canned soups and preservatives, but rather quite healthy options with fresh ingredients.
Jessica was generous to share with us one of her most popular and healthy recipes!
Easy Stovetop Ratatouille
Recipe © 2013 by Jessica Fisher and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press
A traditional French vegetable stew , ratatouille is summer captured in a bowl. There is great debate over the proper preparation of ratatouille; this simple version is mixed in one pot and simmered on the stovetop. This vegan dish is good served hot or even at room temperature. Provide lots of sliced baguette for soaking up the juices. Avoid overcooking the vegetables, so that they are not soggy when reheated. Serves 6 to 8
Packaging: Plastic containers with lids
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1⁄4-inch-thick half-moons
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Two 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes with juices
1 1⁄2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and mushrooms, and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the tomatoes, herbes de Provence, and salt. Stir to combine. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender.
Divide the ratatouille into meal-size portions in plastic containers and chill in the refrigerator before freezing.
To thaw and serve:
Thaw the ratatouille in the refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
I’d love to hear how you eat fresh and healthy in the winter months.