10 Genius Tips from Produce Pete You Won’t Know How You Lived Without
Author, grocer, chef...Pisces: NBC's Peter Napolitano (aka "Produce Pete") is all those things. But for the purpose of this piece, we'll focus on the kitchen commando's wealth of knowledge in storing all kinds of—you guessed it—produce. With his lifetime of experience, your kitchen will be chef-status in no time.
Stop and smell the oranges
MENSA members the world over have tried, and failed, to find words that rhyme with this fruity orb, but Pete, who has graced the airwaves of NBC in New York City and Philadelphia for more than a decade, has succeeded in discovering better ways to select said citrus. Oranges are as ripe as they’re going to get the moment they leave their trees, and it’s basically a downward death spiral from there on out. And since dead things smell bad? Use your nose. “If there’s an acidic smell to it then the skin’s overripe,” says Pete, “and if it’s light as a feather, it’ll taste like one, too.” As for storage, our man recommends refrigeration as a surefire way to prolong Florida’s finest. “A fridge will extend the three to four day lifespan of an orange to around a week.” When you’re done enjoying the orange, try one of the genius uses for orange peels.
Inspect your apple stems
The seed makes the sweet crisp, but the stem marks its age. Indeed, apple antennas can tell shoppers whether or not it’s ready to eat or already headed to brown town. Ideally you want an apple with a firm stem attached. Speaking of rhyming, keeping Sir Isaac Newton’s favorite fruit cold prevents it from getting old. “September, October, and November are the seasons for apples but, of course, we want them all the time,” says Pete, “While peaches and plums don’t belong in a refrigerator, that very same coldness does add to the shelf life of an apple.” Find out 12 things you can do with apples besides eat them.
Keep your lettuce dry
Pete claims that even though most groceries sprinkler systems regularly make it rain atop their various bundles of burger blankets, the wet stuff actually ages your leafy greens, as does placing them in plastic. “Lettuce stores better in paper bags,” notes Pete, “and only wash the leaves you’re going to use when you’re going to use them.” (Speaking of good-for-you food, these are 10 of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.)
Tomatoes are tricky
Sure, ketchup-makers are fun to throw at crummy Vaudeville acts, but, man, are they hard to store—and unlike the aforementioned apple, fridges can’t fix em. “It sucks the flavor right out,” says Pete. “If you have leftovers you might as well just make a sauce with them rather than putting them in the refrigerator.” This juicy red fruit (yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable) doesn’t travel well. “Beefsteaks, and the like, barely last from wherever they’re shipped,” confirms Pete. “Never buy ’em green or yellow, maturity is key. The redder the better.” Here are other foods that should not be stored in the refrigerator.
Store spinach in a paper bag
Pete maintains we should treat this roughage as we would lettuce—wash only the leaves you’re about to use and always refrigerate. And our new pal, the paper bag, will again hold onto the moisture better than plastic and allow your leaves to last three days, tops. Adds Pete, “Avoid yellow stems and make sure they’re nice and green.”
A mango’s stem says it all
Pete’s favorite strain of mango is the Florida-based Kent variety because of its sweetness and shared surname with Superman, (okay, he didn’t say that last bit). Shoppers should look for an overall softness while also paying special attention to the top part of this surprising member of the cashew(!) family. “If you see the stem is oozing, has a little stickiness, and a lot of sugar?” notes Pete. “That means it’s ripening, so grab that one.” As for storage, Pete recommends refrigeration, which may add a little life to the fruit’s otherwise four to five-day clock. And, hey, who doesn’t like a fresh mango? Forget about the Man Of Steel, even Batman’s a fan!
Give peppers a light shake
Be they red, yellow or orange, the rainbow connection of peppers all start out greener than Kermit the Frog and will have a slightly easier time “being” the shade to said Muppet if you follow Napolitano’s wisdom. “The green ones will last a week,” says Pete, “with all other shades, it’s no more than a couple of days, tops.” Placing them in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer will add a couple more days especially if you add some moisture to them. As for how to pick your pep’? “Shake the pepper and if you don’t hear seeds rattling, it’s fresher. This helps because you can see on the outside what’s already breaking down on the inside.”
Place asparagus in a “vase”
Despite the notably non-fragrant effects this member of the Lilly family has on one’s urine, Pete notes one should treat them as you would any other flower. “Stick ’em in a cup of water, like you would a plant, and then place em in the refrigerator” advises Pete. “But never get the top wet, just the bottom.” As for the asp’ you should ask for? “Make sure they’re nice and solid and look at the tip,” warns the produce professor. “If it’s seeding up that means it’s starting to deteriorate.”
Bananas like the dark
It makes sense that a fruit this yellow hates feeling blue. “Bananas don’t like the cold,” confirms Pete, “and if they haven’t ripened once they freeze, they never will, which is why I always suggest just buying them ripe right off the bat.” And if one is too hungry to wait for a green version of our potassium pals to become edible, Pete suggests placing them in a paper bag to hasten ripening. The dietary staple of monkeys the world over, produce ethylene as they age, and if you immerse them within their own gas via said paper bag, they ripen all the quicker. Have overripe bananas on hand? Here are some recipes to make with them—besides banana bread.
Refresh kale in the freezer
“Back in the day, the only New Yorkers who regularly bought this stuff from me were Middle Eastern and German immigrants,” says Pete, “but nowadays I tell my wife, ‘move over, Popeye…here comes kale’.” Pete recommends letting the trendy leaf reside within the coldest area of your refrigerator, but never the even chillier area directly below said area. “You can resuscitate a wilty bit of kale by briefly freezing it, but never actually store it in the freezer–it’s too full of sugar for that,” notes Pete. “And when looking for some at the store, just make sure the stems are nice and sharp.” Check out these foods you should never put in the freezer.