The typical storage time for an apple from the date of harvest is six to twelve months. Potatoes can sit around in storage for an average of two to twelve months. Lettuce is stored one to four weeks, bananas are stored for fourteen days, and a tomato can end up in storage for one to six weeks.
Storing fruits and vegetables is challenging because they have a short shelf life. Therefore, once you remove an edible plant from its source of nutrients, the clock starts ticking. The ripening and rotting phase of the plant accelerates. In addition, it begins to lose its nutritional value the moment that you harvest.
For this reason, food processing companies have spent decades devising new and effective ways to prolong the life of a plant to increase its edibility. Companies have also gone one step further in ensuring that you purchase a particular product once it finally reaches the supermarket shelf by preserving its aesthetic qualities.
The process of preserving and presenting fruits and vegetables to both meet the demands of consumers and ensure consumption (as well as profitability) has become the single greatest threat to plant-based nutrition worldwide. It has also redefined the term fresh as it applies to the produce industry. While the average consumer believes that they have an understanding of what fresh fruits and vegetables should be, industry insiders have stretched the term by days, weeks, months, and even years.
How Storage Affects Nutritional Value
Fruits and vegetables contain the highest nutritional value when harvested at their peak maturity. Produce loses its highest nutrient value immediately after harvest and continues to lose it until the plants are discarded or consumed. Vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week. Some spinach can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours after harvest.
There are several factors that cause fruits and vegetables to lose their nutritional value:
● Higher rates of respiration and moisture loss once cut from the stem
● Microbial spoilage
● Stress to the plant due to mechanical harvesting
● Stored outside of ideal temperature or humidity range
● Cutting and preparation conditions
While processing vegetables and fruits may be necessary under certain conditions, it changes the color, texture, flavor, and nutritional quality of many fresh fruits and vegetables. Regardless of how the produce is stored or processed, many plants lose their essential nutrients such as Vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, B-6, niacin, folate, A, E, iron, minerals, proteins - the list goes on.
Buy Your Produce Locally
Local food doesn’t travel long distances. That means it can be ripened as nature intended and picked when its nutritional value is highest. Local foods typically arrive at a supermarket or restaurant within 24 to 48 hours after harvest, so they retain most of their nutritional value and do not require chemicals, storage techniques, or freezing to keep them fresh.
You can find local food at a farmer’s market or an indoor or vertical farm in your area. Your local grocer or health food store may also stock locally grown foods. You may also want to purchase fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities so that you do not store them for a long period.
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