Cloth produce bags are an old idea whose time has returned. They are simple and sanitary. You can keep a dozen on hand and they take up barely any space. Produce stays fresher and mold-free for longer. They can be used damp or dry, depending on what you are storing. They go in the fridge, on the counter, in the pantry or cupboard.
Cloth produce bags come in many sizes. You can even make them yourself and customize your size. You can use a cotton kitchen towel and forget all about the bags. But we’re focusing on bags, here. On the homestead, wherever we happen to be, we use plain muslin bags, with no ties, approximately 12″x14″.
wash bags in hot, soapy water and air or tumble dry
place in fridge or cupboard
when empty, turn inside out and wash in hot, soapy water…
That’s it! For leafy greens, you may want to keep the bag damp, depending on your storage conditions. I find that keeping greens in a damp bag makes them stay crispy longer. I usually wash them and put them in the (dry) bag, still wet. Then I dampen it under the faucet when it dries out.
What kind of produce can you keep in a produce bag?
Any kind! Okay, just about. Berries are kind of messy and should be kept in a bowl. Cut tomatoes, beets, prepared salads, and such should probably also be kept in bowls. Most whole fruits and vegetables can be kept in cloth produce bags. Unless the fruit flies are about, I keep most whole fruits in a large bowl on the counter. A basket in the pantry holds potatoes, onions, hard squash, and garlic. Greens and most other veggies go in the produce bags in the refrigerator.
Homemade Vitamin C was today’s project. The urban homestead has a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree, so we have lots of raw material. We have never used any pesticides on the trees, so this stuff will be all organic! I have always felt wasteful throwing all those peels away. To find out I could have been making Vitamin C, among other things, out of them, made me very happy.
We eat grapefruit every morning, so afterward, I take the peels and scrape out the remaining fruit and membrane, leaving the white pith.
Then I slice the peels very thin and lay them on a baking sheet. When I have a full sheet (not more than a day or two) I turn the warming oven on to 150F and dry them for an hour or 2. Then I turn the oven off and leave them in there while it cools. After all that, if the peels are crispy and snap when I break them, I go on to the next step. If not, I repeat the drying process.
Here in Southern California, the humidity is such that if the peels sit for too long, they start to mold. So drying them in the oven is a must.
Next, the dried peels are placed in the high-speed blender and ground as fine as it will get them. This is fairly powdery, but there do remain a few chunks. I put the powder into a pint or quart jar and add a paper napkin or small piece of paper towel, to absorb any moisture.
This is a new project, so I am not sure if mold is going to be a problem. My sources say the powder should last about 3 months on the shelf and 6 months in the freezer. Hopefully, I will get enough made to last from final harvest to the following season’s first fruits.
I stir a teaspoon of this into my carrot juice in the morning. Sometimes 2t if I have a cold. Seems to work great. The rest of the family is not excited about the taste, so I am going to mix it with some raw honey and make little pills for them to try.
Most of us don’t have time for fruit and veggie prep, juicing and cleanup every day, several times a day. The gurus tell us to drink freshly juiced vegetables right away to get all the health benefits. True, this is the ideal.
You mothers who breastfeed and pump your milk at work understand how this works. You store and freeze your milk. It loses some vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. But your baby is still getting far more benefits from your breast milk than from formula. Even when that milk is reheated. We can’t always reach the ideal, but we do the best we can.
This is how I juice. Some enzymes, vitamins, and minerals do get lost in the storage and freezing process. But this is the real world, and I have other things to do besides be a slave to the juicer all day.
I go to the farmer’s market once or twice a week. If I can’t make the market I will buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the store, but the greens look fantastic at the farmer’s market lately, so I usually try and hit them up first. Usually, on farmer’s market day, I will come home and juice right away. The old stuff first, then the newer produce. I always save out enough for salads, snacks, and cooked veggies, then juice the rest.
I pour the fresh juice into canning jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace for freezing. If you are going to try this, make sure you are using canning jars, not reusing mayonnaise jars or some other jars you got jam or something in. Canning jars are tempered to withstand temperature extremes. Every non-tempered jar I have tried freezing or canning with has cracked. That’s a lot of glass, food and hard work to throw out.
I keep about a quart of juice in the refrigerator at a time. When I thaw my juice, I do not use the microwave. The nutritional qualities of fresh juice are very delicate, and the freezing process has already destroyed some of them. So I let my juice thaw naturally, even if it means skipping a day of juice. It just takes some planning ahead. I will thaw frozen bone broth in the microwave, however.
Despite missing the ideal, I still realize enormous health benefits from juicing. I have more energy and am able to consume more fruits and veggies because of it.
I love to preserve my homegrown bounty and I have also wondered how it was done before the advent of water bath and pressure canning in the 1800’s. Certainly people preserved foods long before rubber canning seals were invented. Sandor Katz digs deep into ancient preservation methods – primarily fermenting, and provides answers and most importantly, methods for this nutritious way of preserving.
From sauerkraut to sourdough, beer to yogurt, the history, culture that invented it and method of each type of ferment is explored. Katz supplies many anecdotes, both from his own family history and from the groups he studied to illustrate the fermenting process and even the enjoyment of the finished product. Some methods are complicated at best, but most ferments are surprisingly simple and Katz shares many recipes for fermenting and enjoying veggies, dairy, grains, and of course, beer and wine.
Health benefits of fermented foods are also explained and given new value. Dozens of recipes include: basic brining, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, yogurt, farmer’s cheese and sourdough starter. Anyone looking for new/old ways to preserve food, while retaining as much of the nutrients as possible and making it more easily digestible, will find this book most informative and entertaining.
If your family is like mine, you’re lucky if you can get them to eat salad with dinner on a regular basis. French fries are counted as a veggie, and pizza is a full meal (meat, diary, bread, tomato sauce). Indeed, one of my sons honestly admits that the only way I’ll get him to eat more veggies is to hide them. So I do. Hence, today I am sharing my secrets to sneaking more veggies into your family’s diet.
Today we hear that raw is best for you. Although this may be true, even I can only eat so many raw veggies. And I like my meat and eggs cooked – medium rare, over easy, but cooked. Some veggies release their heavy duty disease fighting nutrients only after cooking. I’m thinking about tomatoes, onions and garlic, among others. So for the purpose of increasing my family’s fiber intake and nutrition, I serve lots of cooked veggies. They just don’t know about it.
Salad before dinner is a mainstay at my house. The more toppings, the better, and lots of ranch dressing. Despite the fact that most ranch dressing contains msg and soybean oil, I have had to concede that ranch is the vehicle to get the veggies ingested. One small victory at a time.
A banana, raw milk or yogurt, more fruit, a raw egg, and, um, kale? Lettuce? Well, you didn’t need to know about that. I can put more greens in mine, but for the fam, just a leaf or 2…
Stir fry or chow mein makes the table at least once a week. Cooked rice or noodles are lightly fried with carrots, onions, garlic and 3 or 4 other chopped vegetables. Use coconut oil for natural sweetness and add leftover meats or an egg if desired. Chop everything fairly small so that it doesn’t take long to cook. Also, ginger, garlic and turmeric help add an asian flavor.
Another favorite one pot meal is the good ole’ casserole. Mix cooked rice, potatoes or noodles with chopped veggies and meats (if desired) and douse with cheese sauce. Or if you’re a canned soup person, cream of mushroom, chicken or celery soup. Season to taste and bake at 350F until done. This is easier with already cooked veggies and meats (aka, leftovers). Cauliflower hides real well, especially with cheese.
Taco meat is a good place to hide veggies. Shred or cut them small and fry with the hamburger and onions. This works well with carrots, corn, zucchini, olives, chiles, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Moreover, adding veggies to your taco meat will stretch your meat budget further.
Spaghetti sauce is very versatile. You can blatantly add chunks of zucchini, carrots and peppers, or you can shred or dice them. Use fresh tomatoes or canned sauce. This is delicious with or without meat. Don’t forget the onions and garlic.
Many people no longer consider soup to be a meal. In reality soup is a superfood. To say nothing of the wide variety of soups. Just think chicken broth, carrots, zucchini, corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, etc. for starters. Add some kind of fat for flavor. Butter, olive oil, and chicken fat all work well and help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Season to taste. Serve with a good bread and butter.
I hope I’ve sparked your imagination. There are tons more ways to sneak those veggies in. This is just to get you started. Now go feed your family more veggies!
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