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Keeping Your Salad Safe and Tasty: Proper Care of Your Salad Ingredients

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By Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN
Monsanto Vegetables Division

Wendy Kapsak Reinhardt

Wendy Kapsak Reinhardt

As the weather warms up, my family tends to switch up our meal routine by skipping the stovetop and instead, going for more produce. One of our favorite summer entrees is a colorful, hearty salad brimming with fruits and vegetables. Each week, the three kids and I scamper through the supermarket’s produce aisle and load up on our favorite vegetables – from crisp leafy greens to snackable tomatoes and sweet corn. We also look forward to seasonal fruits including peaches and strawberries – some flavorful favorites!

One often overlooked yet very important step is the proper cleaning and storage of this delicious produce when we get back home. The truth is, produce will last longer and even taste better if we take special care of each item from the cart to the salad bowl.

Consider including others in this safety step – kids as well as adults love to learn about food, including storage and preparation. For children, it is also a great opportunity to talk about shapes, colors and healthful habits. And of course, savor the flavor of fruits and vegetables – try a new variety or recipe and tempt your taste buds with all that summer has to offer!

Read on to learn some basic tips for keeping vegetables and melons in prime condition.

Produce Item Safety First Storage
Bell Peppers Wash peppers with cold water prior to serving. Bell peppers can be refrigerated for five to seven days.  Store in a perforated bag with a damp paper towel to retain moisture.
Carrots Remove the carrot greens to avoid limp roots. Wash and scrub them with a brush prior to eating. Store carrots in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Change the towel frequently to retain moisture.
Cauliflower Cauliflower is typically washed after cutting through the core. Rinse with cool water. Place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to five days.
Cantaloupe Prior to serving, scrub the whole melon with a vegetable brush. After washing, blot the melon with a paper towel to remove excess water. Store whole melon at room temperature for up to one week. Refrigerate cut melon in an airtight container for up to five days.
Cucumbers Wash cucumbers thoroughly before slicing. Cucumbers should be refrigerated in a plastic bag, and will last for up to one week.
Honeydew Scrub whole melons with a vegetable brush before slicing. Store honeydew melons at room temperature. Cut melon can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Leafy greens Prior to storing and serving, carefully rinse greens and let them air dry on a towel.  Discard any torn or bruised leaves. To avoid a soggy bag of greens, make sure your lettuce or spinach can breathe in a perforated container. Store in the refrigerator and use within one week.
Onion Before slicing, peel off any flaky layers and rinse the onion under cool water. Store onions in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area and use within four weeks.
Sweet Corn After removing the husk, rinse the corn cob under running water. Rub with hands or a clean brush to remove all silk strands. Refrigerate corn with husks and serve within two days.
Tomatoes Prior to storing and serving, gently rinse and rub the tomato – even if you don’t plan on eating the skins. For best flavor, store at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Ripe tomatoes should be used within one week.
Watermelon To avoid contamination when slicing, gently rinse the watermelon in warm water before preparing. Store whole watermelons at room temperature. When sliced, refrigerate in an airtight container and enjoy within five days.

For more information on produce storage as well as healthy and nutritious habits, visit MoreMatters.org.

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