Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Project Nowaste - produce preservation products

Project NOWASTEIn this week's Project Nowaste post, I wanted to talk to y'all about produce preservation products. Say that ten times fast.

First off, there are bags like the green bags called Evert Fresh. They claim to keep your produce looking fresher and lasting longer than regular produce bags. They also advertise that the bags will keep produce fresh 3 to 10 times longer and will reduce vitamin loss by up to 50%. Supposedly they can be reused 8 to 10 times.

Evert FreshHow do the bags work? Well, they remove ethylene gas, the gas that is produced by some fruits and vegetables. The ethylene gas released by your apples, tomatoes and the like quickens the ripening of produce. The Evert Fresh bags claim that they slow down this process. They also claim to have natural minerals in the bag to absorb ammonia and carbon dioxide which are damaging to fruits and vegetables. Finally, they reduce moisture and thereby reduce bacterial growth.

Don't want to deal with bags and you'd much rather just huck something into the crisper bin of your fridge? Well, there's the option of the E.G.G. (Ethylene Gas Guard) or the ExtraLife Fresh Produce Preserver disks.

Behold... the E.G.G.The E.G.G. is like a plastic Easter egg stuffed full of potassium permanganate bonded to zeolite. I have no idea what this means, but the take-away lesson, kids, is that the payload this egg is carrying helps reduce the amount of ethylene gas in your fridge. The beauty of the E.G.G. is that you can remove the zeolite package and dump it on your plants. It's like catnip for plants. Or something like that.

Anyway, you can refill the plastic E.G.G. with more of this pomegranate dilithium crystal stuff and you'll have minimal waste. It doesn't sound like they have the other magical minerals to prevent premature aging and wrinkling. So you'll need Botox for that. But zeolite does manage moisture levels, absorbing moisture when it's too high and releasing moisture when it's too low.

The ExtraLife disks supposedly absorb 97% of ethylene buildup and each disk lasts 3 months before it gets sentenced to eternity in landfill purgatory. So, if you were to choose between the two products, I think the E.G.G. is the way to go. Just make sure to teach your kids that the permacultured neolithic chrysalis inside the E.G.G. isn't edible.

Has anyone tried these products? What do you think? Can you really prevent the ubiquitous bag full of black, slimy spinach, at least for a few more days?

[Please note: I am in no way promoting the purchase or use of these products. A reader had asked that I do some recon on them. I much prefer that people buy their produce in reusable produce bags and store them in BioBags if limpness is an issue.

As for the Evert Fresh Bags, if your produce is currently entombed in plastic and you go shopping infrequently, this might be a better alternative for storage. So, as much as I'd like to throw out a "WWFPFD?" (What would Fake Plastic Fish Do?), not everyone has the time or interest in planning out their plastic usage. Just saying.]

24 comments:

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Oh Crunchy! Say it isn't so! Please tell me you are not promoting plastic bags to store produce in!

I wrote all about Evert Fresh bags on my blog and my months-long campaign to get sites like reusablebags.com and greenfeet.com to at least acknowledge that the bags are made form polyethylene plastic, the same plastic that grocery bags are made from. The only difference is the clay.

And the clay is what makes the bags unrecyclable. Recycling experts I've spoken to have all said that the clay would be a contaminant in the waste stream.

Please check out my blog posts about this issue:

Here's the first one:

http://www.fakeplasticfish.com/2007/11/its-plastic-evert-fresh-is-made-out-of.html

And here's the update:

http://www.fakeplasticfish.com/2007/12/evert-fresh-update.html

It's great not to waste food. But to use a non-biodegradable bag that will last forever in the environment to store food that is fully compostable just doesn't make sense to me. Please, oh please reconsider.

(Oh, and sorry to psych you out about your Luna Bar wrapper.)

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Oh, and after re-reading your post, it sounds like you're not exactly promoting the bags but reporting what you've read about them. So I'm just reporting what I know about them too.

The E.G.G. thingie? I wouldn't do it because I try not to buy any plastic, but it does seem like the better alternative if it's refillable.

Anonymous said...

I know potassium permaganate as Condy's Crystals. I don't know about the stuff in the egg but we used to use with our older patients with certain skin infections.

Deb G said...

Ummm...sorta seems like green affluenza to me :)

I think I'll just stick with eating it before it goes bad.

Lynnet said...

I'm trying to reduce my use of plastic on food, but I'm stumped as to storage for vegetables in the frig. Cloth bags for produce don't sound very good. Do people just put them in a heap in the produce drawer, sans bag? I'd love to hear some ideas.

LisaZ said...

We use the cloth bags. Sometimes I'll wet them to (try) and keep the carrots or celery or whatever fresher. Unfortunately, there's nothing like plastic to keep the stuff moist and longer-lasting. Carrots and celery do tend to get limp fast in the cloth bags. Not sure if there's any better way. We resort to plastic sometimes, too, and try to reuse them as long as possible.

Thanks fake plastic fish for your comments. I won't use the Evert bags for sure. For some reason I thought they were biodegradable.

Wendy said...

Lynnet, my Grandma always wrapped damp paper towels around her produce (I assume to keep them crisp) and didn't keep them in the plastic bags. I bet clean cloths would work as well (and be reusable).

Greenpa said...

Ethylene is not a problem- if your stuff is not in a fridge. (smug smug) Out in the real world, the stuff just floats away and doesn't cause problems.

All you need is a nice root cellar... :-)

Yeah, I know. Harder to get than a fridge.

The other tactic, though is; don't have so much stuff in the fridge; for so long. Buy a little; use it- fewer problems.

Chile said...

I currently get all my produce for the week at one time, through my CSA. I have no choice but to try to store it for the duration of a week while we use it up. Some of it comes in plastic bags which I reuse. Much of the produce seems to keep the best if kept in plastic; some prefer solid bags, others prefer the perforated bags.

I've had great success with the ExtraLife disks and I usually forget to replace them on time. I'd say they last about 5 months, on average. They are not refillable, though, so I like the idea of the other product. I've never seen it here, but I'll keep an eye out for it.

I hated the green fresh bags and still have some I don't want to use. Anybody want 'em? ;-)

PS: Greenpa, I'd love to have a root cellar some day. It is high on my wish list for whenever we get our own property!

DC said...

If anyone is looking for regular (not "stay-fresh longer") biodegradable plastic bags to store produce in, you could try BioBags. They are made from agricultural products (GMO free and no polyethylene) and are 100% compostable in 10-45 days. I haven't tried them myself -- if anyone has, please let us know how they've worked for you.

Melissa said...

I use Bio Bags and really like them. I originally bought them for lining my compost bucket and then I dump it all in my compost bin where they do break down pretty fast in there (in warmer weather). Lately I've been keeping more produce in them in the fridge first and they do breathe so the greens stay fresher longer. If they get too wet they start falling apart so be sure to dry off any moisture on the greens first and then they will be good and long lasting. If they stay in good condition, I then put the bag in my compost bucket as originally intended.

Oldnovice said...

I used the Evert Fresh bags once several years ago and didn't see the life of the food extended much.

I stick most stuff in a gallon ziploc freezer bag WITH paper towel to absorb excess moisture after washing. Extends the life, but not forever. Stuff that should stay crunchy does best wrapped tightly in tinfoil, I've found, so celery, zucchini, etc. get THAT. Other stuff might simply get thrown into the vegetable drawers.

There was an article linked to by the guy writing the book on food waste in the USA stating that veggies shouldn't be close to fruit in the frig because one gives off fumes that hurt the other. I haven't seen that to be true AT ALL and have kept apples, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, etc. "fresh" in a colander set on the top shelf uncovered in the frig for over a week with no ill effects. I have suffered when NOT using the frig, though. Room temp just didn't keep things fresh.

Plastic freezer ziploc bags used to store veggies in the frig can be washed in soapy water, rinsed, and dried, so it's not like you're using an abundance of plastic bags. You don't need many.

We don't have basements in North Texas because the ground is pretty much all rock, so root cellars are out of the question.

Greenpa said...

Old novice- heck, I understand you can get dynamite in north Texas...

:-)

Root cellars are a long, long discussion. They work great- but they are a LARGE investment if you have to make a new one. However- made right, they last with next to no upkeep for generations.

But- right now- I have to dig snow away to get into ours, because we dug it away from the house. It ain't like leaning over and opening the fridge door.

Anonymous said...

Plastic storage containers work really well. I use the Tupperware or old Ziploc containers I have. Just spread a cloth or paper towel in the bottom, place produce on top, close the lid and store in the refrigerator. Tupperware sells a line of products called fridge smart that have 2 air valves you can open or leave shut depending on the type of produce you are storing---they have a list to tell you. While they are an expensive initial investment, I think they work well at making my produce last longer and you can reuse them over and over again for years.

MamaBird said...

For things like fresh herbs and asparagus you can cut the ends under running water and then keep them in a glass of water like a bouquet of flowers, that helps. Also, separating the produce as someone alluded to is supposed to help ie keeping ethylene producing away from ethylene sensitive produce. Here's a list from realsimple that I have kept on my fridge for years. Wish I had a root cellar or even just a basement. I want to be able to store my apples AND do vermicomposting! Anyone have ideas for how to store stuff that doesn't use ziplocs? I am trying to avoid them and find myself jonesing for them. Like Classico jars but need more storage solutions esp for freezer. TIA

MamaBird said...

whoops, ethylene foodlistg
http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,681591,00.html

Fake Plastic Fish said...

The best way I've found to store carrots and celery is immersed in a container of water in the refrigerator. Really, they will stay crispy and fresh for a very long time. Change the water periodically.

I put produce like chard in cotton produce bags dampened with water. You do have to remember to re-dampen them.

I wash and dry salad greens and keep them in a metal bowl with a lid.

LimeSarah said...

For leafy vegetables like lettuce, I've found that wrapping them in a damp tea/dish towel works extremely well. This does create the problem that after a CSA pickup our crisper drawer is full of lumps in anonymous damp tea towels, and if we're not careful, one of them will turn out to be full of brown goo from last week's share rather than crisp lettuce. But if you keep up with it, they stay fresh for at least a week, and the towels only need to be washed if something went bad in them.

Debbie said...

Okay, I have to confess I have a bunch of Evert Fresh bags which I use almost exclusively for CSA greens weekly during the spring and summer. If I don't they wilt way before I can eat them (like within a day, it's crazy). While I don't like the fact that they are plastic, I do really like the fact that for the first time ever I don't have to throw away those greens. Now, when the CSA's not operating (I'm in cold/snowy Iowa, we've got a couple of months to go) I shop more often and use cloth bags. The EF bags are washed and put away for now. I expect them to last another summer, at least.

I don't necessarily recommend them, but if it's a trade off you're willing to make, they do work.

Rosa said...

lots of things go bad *faster* in plastic bags. I hate the green mush we get when people helpfully do our shopping and put bags of produce in our fridge.

Greens with stiff stems (chard, kale, collards) and whole herbs (parsley, basil) keep longer if they are upright in a container with some water in the bottom, like a bouquet. If they sat out for a long time before you bought them you might have to cut the ends fresh, like you would with flowers.

The thing is that they need water to stay crisp, but if water sits on the leaves they are more vulnerable to bacteria.

Cauliflower & broccoli are the same way, btw. I'm with Beth on storing cut carrots & celery in water, but I've never had a problem with whole ones (unwashed) in the veggie drawer.

It's important, if you do get bad stuff in your veggie drawer, to wash it out to reduce the population of the bacteria & mold that cause decay. That brown slick in the bottom of the drawer is like homemade compost starter.

stella said...

I heap things in the fridge without a bag--cuz I don't buy most things in bags. Except mushrooms or brussle sprouts or shelling peas (almost in season!) go in a paper bag, and greens go in the plastic bag our last loaf of bread came in. And some things get chucked into a bowl on our counter.

We have to walk to the market at least every other day.

Lynnet said...

Thanks for lots of good ideas.

I do a certain amount of informal "root-cellaring". In the unheated garage I store onions and potatoes in paper bags with a second paper bag on top to keep out the light. Apples are on the other side of the garage, in boxes (and still holding... wonderful fruits).

In an unheated room of our house I have root vegetables and cabbage from our CSA, in plastic bags (gonna work on that) in two dark-colored shopping bags (to keep out light).

There is a great convenience in "root-cellaring" where you don't have to dig out snow to get to them, although the storage conditions are not as ideal for the veggies.

Now that we're moving into spring, both of these places will warm up. I keep potatoes and onions in the garage all summer too, out of the light, and it works pretty well for them.

jessy said...

you can also go to this site and click on the "real simple" charts shown. she has (2) charts there that have tips on how to store produce: http://4theycallmemommy.blogspot.com/2007/07/real-simples-tips-on-storing-produce.html

most helpful, indeed! :)

Anonymous said...

We've got these bags and they do seem to help a LOT with fruits and greens, especially in our old frig which tends to get humid and change temperature at will.

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