Plastics are a hot button issue, most Americans are aware that they are filling up our landfills, but not what to do instead. The short answer is, use as little as you can and recycle everything else. But what about safety? Some plastics we know are toxic, such as #3 aka PVC or vinyl. PVC contains phthalates and heavy metals, and creates dioxins when it burns.
Americans are generating more plastic trash than ever, and very little of it gets recycled. Plastics and their byproducts are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways, and contributing to health problems in humans and animals. -ecology center
According to the ecology center, other plastics marketed as safe contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been identified as a chemical that disrupts hormones. Plastics can contain thousands of possible additives, and manufacturers are not required to disclose what their recipes are. Any plastic can leach those chemicals into your food, depending on the conditions (light, heat) and what additives it includes.
Yikes! I know, that was my response too, but what do I do to combat these issues? Keep everything in mason jars? Well, yes and no. While mason jars are a great alternative for plastic containers, not only because they are glass, but because they are heat and freeze safe, but there are many fruits and veggies that don’t need to be kept in a sealed container at all. In fact some do better stored on a cool counter, or in a paper bag in your fridge. I came across a handy, dandy list the other day and thought I would add my two cents on what has and has not worked for me. (scroll down for list).
Here are some ideas for food storage without plastic:
Mason jars and weck jars come in many sizes and styles and are heat and freeze proof, with BPA-free lids/rings. They are great for storage soup, salsa, and salad, but not ideal for leftover meat for example. They looks great used as dry storage for your oats, sugar, rice and flours. Of course, you can always save glass bottles you buy your foods in, but be careful, they might not be heat or freeze safe.
Pyrex, libby and a host of other glass storage bowls are not only dishwasher safe, but often oven safe, made with BPA-free lids.
Basic paper bags are great for everything from school lunches, to making popcorn in the microwave to storing your fruit and veg! You can find both waxed and unwaxed models of these.
The following items prefer to be stored on a cool counter, which in short means not in direct sunlight or next to a heating element or anything else that can overly warm the area. Your counter may not be the best option, so a pantry, cabinet or drawer will work just as well.
Apples – store on a cool counter for 2 weeks, for longer storage use a cardboard box in the fridge. Personally I have had apples last a great deal longer in an open air basket out of the sun.
Citrus ‐ store in a cool place, with good airflow, never in an air‐tight container.
Apricots ‐ on a cool counter to room temperature or fridge if fully ripe
Dates ‐dryer dates (like Deglet Noor) are fine stored out on the counter in a bowl or the paper bag they were bought in.
Melons ‐ uncut in a cool dry place. Cut melons should be in the fridge, an open container is fine.
Pears ‐ will keep for a few weeks on a cool counter, but fine in a paper bag. To hasten the ripening put an apple in with them.
Pomegranates ‐ keep up to a month stored on a cool counter.
Asparagus ‐ place them loosely in a glass or bowl upright with water at room temperature, for up to one week.
Avocados ‐ place in a paper bag at room temp. To speed up their ripening‐ place an apple in the bag with them.
Basil ‐ is difficult to store well. Basil does not like the cold, or to be wet for that matter. The best method here is an airtight container/jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside‐left out on a cool counter.
Cabbage ‐ left out on a cool counter is fine up to a week, in the crisper otherwise. Peel off outer leaves if they start to wilt. Cabbage might begin to loose its moisture after a week , so, best used as soon as possible.
Cauliflower ‐ will last a while in a closed container in the fridge, but they say cauliflower has the best flavor the day it’s bought.
Celery ‐ does best when simply places in a cup or bowl of shallow water on the counter.
Corn ‐ leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
Eggplant ‐ does fine left out in a cool room. Don’t wash it, eggplant doesn’t like any extra moisture around its leaves. For longer storage‐ place loose, in the crisper.
Fava beans ‐ place in an air tight container.
Fennel ‐ if used within a couple days after it’s bought fennel can be left out on the counter, upright in a cup or bowl of water (like celery). If wanting to keep longer than a few days place in the fridge in a closed container with a little water.
Greens ‐ remove any bands, twist ties, etc. most greens must be kept in an air‐tight container with a damp cloth‐ to keep them from drying out. Kale, collards, and chard even do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
Green beans ‐ they like humidity, but not wetness. A damp cloth draped over an open or loosely closed container.
Green Tomatoes ‐ store in a cool room away from the sun to keep them green and use quickly or they will begin to color. (NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator).
Okra ‐ doesn’t like humidity. So a dry towel in an airtight container. Doesn’t store that well, best eaten quickly after purchase
Summer Squash ‐ does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut.
Sweet peppers ‐ Only wash them right before you plan on eating them as wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple a days, place in the crisper if longer storage needed.
Sweet Potatoes‐ Store in a cool, dark, well‐ventilated place. Never refrigerate‐‐sweet potatoes don’t like the cold.
Tomatoes‐ Never refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness place in a paper bag with an apple otr a sunny window.
Turnips ‐ remove the greens (store separately) same as radishes and beets, store them in an open container with a moist cloth.
Zucchini ‐ does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.
The following prefer a cool place, like a dark pantry or root cellar.
Cherries ‐ store in an airtight container. Don’t wash cherries until ready to eat, any added moisture encourages mold.
Garlic ‐ store in a cool, dark, place.
Onion ‐ store in a cool, dark and dry, place‐ good air circulation is best, so don’t stack them.
Potatoes ‐ (like garlic and onions) store in cool, dark and dry place, such as, a box in a dark corner of the pantry; a paper bag also works well.
Rutabagas ‐ in an ideal situation a cool, dark, humid root cellar or a closed container in the crisper to keep their moisture in.
Winter squash ‐ store in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Many growers say winter squashes get sweeter if they’re stored for a week or so before eaten.
The following should be refrigerated
Berries ‐ (fragile!) When storing be careful not to stack too many high, a single layer if possible. A paper bag works well, only wash the berries before you plan on eating them.
Moist dates ‐ (like Medjool) need refrigeration if they’re going to be stored over a week, either in cloth or a paper bag‐ as long as it’s porous to keeping the moisture away from the skin of the dates.
Figs ‐ Don’t like humidity, so, no closed containers. A paper bag works to absorb excess moisture, but a plate works best in the fridge up to a week un‐stacked.
Nectarines ‐ store in the fridge if ripe, un-ripe fruit will ripen on the counter.
Peaches (and most stone fruit)‐ refrigerate only when fully ripe. More firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
Strawberries‐ Don’t like to be wet. Do best in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week check the bag for moisture every other day.
Artichokes ‐ place in an airtight container sealed, with light moisture.
Arugula ‐ arugula, like lettuce, should not stay wet! Dunk in cold water and spin or lay flat to dry. Place dry arugula in an open container, wrapped with a dry towel to absorb any extra moisture.
Beans, shelling‐ open container in the fridge, eat ASAP.
Beets ‐ cut the tops off to keep beets firm, (be sure to keep the greens!)by leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in and open container with a wet towel on top.
Beet greens ‐ place in an airtight container with a little moisture.
Broccoli ‐ place in an open container in the fridge or wrap in a damp towel before placing in the fridge.
Broccoli Rabe ‐ left in an open container in the crisper, but best used as soon as possible.
Brussels Sprouts ‐ If bought on the stalk leave them on that stalk. Put the stalk in the fridge or leave it on a cold place. If they’re bought loose store them in an open container with a damp towel on top.
Carrots ‐ cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.
Celery root/Celeriac ‐ wrap the root in a damp towel and place in the crisper.
Cucumber ‐ wrapped in a moist towel in the fridge. If you’re planning on eating them within a day or two after buying them they should be fine left out in a cool room.
Green garlic ‐ an airtight container in the fridge or left out for a day or two is fine, best before dried out.
Herbs – a closed container in the fridge to kept up to a week. Any longer might encourage mold.
Lettuce ‐ keep damp in an airtight container in the fridge.
Leeks ‐ leave in an open container in the crisper wrapped in a damp cloth or in a shallow cup of water on the counter (just so the very bottom of the stem has water).
Parsnips ‐ an open container in the crisper, or, like a carrot, wrapped in a damp cloth in the fridge.
Radicchio ‐ place in the fridge in an open container with a damp cloth on top.
Radishes ‐ remove the greens (store separately) so they don’t draw out excess moisture from the roots and place them in a open container in the fridge with a wet towel placed on top.
Rhubarb ‐ wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
Snap peas ‐ refrigerate in an open container
Spinach ‐ store loose in an open container in the crisper, cool as soon as possible. Spinach loves to stay cold.
Spring onions ‐ Remove any band or tie and place in the crisper.
Check out http://ecologycenter.org/plastics/ for more information!