Due to my lifestyle it's hard to tell in advance whether I will be cooking during some weeks. I love food though, and when I get back home after being away (or some weeks I just don't have the time), the food is not as fresh (we're talking about 3-7 days).
What are the best tips for prolonging freshness of vegetables and herbs? I'm not asking about meat or fish, because I presume the only way to store those is to freeze them, which I don't do, though refrigerators – I tolerate.
Can ingredients be grouped according to how it should be stored?
Edit: I live in Eastern Europe. Continental climate, mild. For most of the year humidity isn't a concern.
Plants continue living after they have been picked. They respirate, but without the moisture and nutrients they used to get from the soil, their metabolism goes awry and they wilt.
The only way to stop this process is to blanch and then freeze them. This works well, but needs lots of freezer space. Also, they aren't exactly like fresh, with their texture changing a lot (they get soft, as the ice crystals produced by freezing rip their cell walls to pieces). A few of them change their flavor too.
If you don't want to freeze, you can prolong their life a bit by slowing their metabolism.
The perfect solution is a special fridge or cellar with the right conditions (which happen to also be good for cheese and wine). Most of us can't afford that, so you may have to create an environment which creates everything but the correct temperature range for warmth-loving fruit (you can keep apples, etc. in the normal fridge). Some people feel that the better compromise is to keep them at room temperature and have them wilt quicker but preserve flavor, others keep tomatoes etc. in the fridge wher they stay fresh but lose aroma. It is up to your personal preference.
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