I love the fresh produce of summer. In Florida, colorful fruits and veggies start pouring into our supermarkets early, and then we get the benefit of the northern growing seasons well into the scorching summer months when our gardens take a break. I am easily drawn to the colors and smells of the produce department and roadside stands, and nothing makes me happier to come home with bags of the good stuff. I can practically feel the health surging through my body just looking at the antioxidant-packed bounty.
And then this happens.
"John, why haven't you guys been eating the pears?" John replies, "We have pears?"
I was mesmerized in the produce department at Publix a few weeks ago, ready to buy a cartload of the good stuff, when it finally dawned on me that we don't always eat everything I buy. Actually, we often weren't eating half of it. We had the beginnings of a very expensive compost pile. I stopped and surveyed the market stand trying to determine why this was happening.
Aren't produce markets beautiful? All of the shiny apples piled high in their bins, arranged so neatly. Who wouldn't want a big, bushy pineapple, especially when it's surrounded by colorful mangoes. The yummy harvest goes into the cute little bags to be weighed, then goes home to...
the black hole that is the refrigerator.
Yes, like a coconut falling from a tree, the realization hit me that the allure of these delicacies of nature is their beauty, and hiding them in the fridge behind the cottage cheese is an insult to them, and much worse, it keeps us from enjoying them. I took action that day when I returned home, and our produce eating has improved tremendously.
1. I did a refrigerator remodel. I ditched the stuff that needed to go, and cleared out the produce bin. I pushed the grains and nuts to the back where they could still be seen but not interfere with more perishable things in the front, and I moved all of the bottle things to the door. I put organizers into the drawer so that I could wash the apples and store them in an open container so that they would be ready to be eaten at any time. Once the apples were corralled, the other fruits and veggies organized themselves neatly around them. No produce bags or boxes, just a bin of fresh stuff ready to be grabbed and eaten at any time.
2. I did a grocery list remodel. I realized that I would habitually buy lots of short-life produce, such as berries, and very little of anything that would last until my next shopping day. We would force-feed ourselves the perishable stuff for two days, and then we were out of fresh food for the week. I examine our grocery list every week now to assure that I have a week's worth of edible goodies, and we eat them accordingly.
3. I stopped buying so much produce in the first place. This is contrary to my earlier grocery shopping posts, but I have decided that certain fresh food can be purchased multiple times a week so that it isn't reduced to compost. I still budget for it, though, and I make sure that the money is in the cash envelope when it's time to replenish the produce bin.
We want to enjoy our food, not just scramble to get it eaten so that it doesn't spoil. Do you have any pointers for making the most of the summer harvest?