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Getting your greens and keeping them fresh

June 14, 2011

For Starkville Daily News

Greens are a staple in any health-conscious household. But keeping them fresh might not seem like an easy task. Contrary to popular opinion, keeping greens fresh for more than a week does not require fancy equipment, just a refrigerator, a plastic bag and a few simple storing tips.
First, when purchasing greens, look for those that are full of life and extremely crisp. Greens can vary from bright to deep shades of color, but if you begin with limp greens, chances are their lifespan will be minimal regardless of your storing techniques. Once purchased, trim the ends as you would with fresh flowers, place the cut ends in water and refrigerate. You can also wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel, place them inside an open plastic bag to maintain oxygen and then refrigerate. Cool temperatures of between 36 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (but no warmer) will further help to avoid any wilting. If stored properly, greens can last anywhere from one to three weeks after purchase.
The debatable choice of organic versus non-organic does not affect the life span of properly stored greens. But “you are what you eat,” notes Chef Daniel Mattos, academic director of Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of California - Orange County. Mattos is an advocate for purchasing both locally grown organic and non-organic greens. “In some cases, organic items are more expensive than conventionally grown items,” comments Mattos. “Consumers need to think about their bottom line and food budget when purchasing.”
Many consumers in search for the freshest greens have begun growing their own gardens. Mattos is no exception. His culinary department manages a small organic garden that produces 29 varietals of herbs, fruits and vegetables including tarragon, eggplant and even zinfandel grapes. The Art Institute of California - Orange County students will use these fresh ingredients in their recipes at the student-run campus restaurant 50 Forks. “When considering what to grow, think about how much space you have and what type of sunlight you can expect there,” advises Mattos. “You can have a window box with a few different herbs or a small patch of organic ground garden like we have here at our campus.”
In further search for the freshest greens, look to your neighborhood farmers market and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups. Take advantage of these opportunities to find the freshest cut greens and seasonal ingredients, locally and organically grown. Getting in the habit of eating the freshest foods will not only taste better but also connect you more to the earth and promote greater general health.
To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

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