Is it alright to buy fresh produce on Saturday morning to be used on Tuesday night?
August 28, 2009 1:53 PM   Subscribe

How far ahead can I buy farmer's market produce?

So, I'm throwing a casual dinner party this coming Tuesday (simple, but elegant salade niçoise, some sort of berry pie or grumble, fig, melon, and proscuitto appetizer). I was hoping to use good, fresh, farmer's market produce since, well, it's august...what better time to do so? The problem: my local farmer's market is on Saturday morning, but I won't be cooking until Tuesday. Will the veggies (heirloom tomatoes, new potatoes, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) hold up between then and now or would I be better off just going to my local grocery store and buying them on Monday? Thanks!
posted by faeuboulanger to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be hesitant on the raspberries and blackberries but the rest will probably be fine. Ask the vendor for their storage suggestions when you go to the farmer's market.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:55 PM on August 28, 2009

Potatoes will definitely be fine; just put them somewhere dark and cool (not the fridge). The peppers will also be totally fine -- put them in the fridge. Leave the tomatoes on the counter -- anything short of dead, dripping, overripe on Saturday will also be fine on Tuesday.

I agree that the berries will hold up least well. But they, too, should be fine, since you're going to make a pie or crumble or something -- they don't need to be perfect for that.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:04 PM on August 28, 2009

For a pie or crumble it's generally fine to make the filling in advance and freeze it.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2009

Well, I don't know where you are, but your list of 'wants' might be seasonally impossible. :) I'm East Coast, so YMMV, but blackberries are over, as are raspberries. There are a very few blueberries left, but it's the utter tail end of their season.

You should be okay on the tomatoes, new potatoes, and peppers, and all three should keep just fine until Tuesday. Whatever you do, for the love of whatever god floats your boat, don't put the tomatoes in the fridge. The peppers can go in there with no texture/flavor degradation, but you will kill the whole reason for buying farmers' market tomatoes if they go below 45F or so.

This is also melon season, so get your melons at the market -- the figs you want will probably be there as well!
posted by Concolora at 2:09 PM on August 28, 2009

I agree that all but the berries will be fine. For those, you have a couple options. If you wanted them fresh, there's not much you can do other than cool them down in the fridge and hope. But if you were planning on a mixed-berry pie or crisp, or in a cake, they will still be wonderful. Even as an ice-cream topping, they'll be fine. The problem is not that they'll go bad but that they'll become juicier and soft, and lose some sweetness.

On the other hand, don't overthink. I've got a quart of blueberries in my fridge that I bought last Friday. They are still beautiful in look and taste. They are sturdiest. It's the blackberries and raspberries that get mushy fast.

You could freeze them. That ruins the texture but retains a lot of flavor. Frozen berries can be thawed and mixed into cakes/pies.

I'd say that you're always better off with the farmer's market produce than the grocery store produce - the thing is that everyone understands you have to handle, store, and prepare farmer's market produce differently than you would packaged, industrial produce that is grown, selected, chemicalized, and sprayed to withstand the tough treatment it gets. What you might lose in the texture of the fresh farmer's market berries you will still gain in flavor, freshness, fairness, and cleanliness over a similar amount from the grocery. Find a way to enjoy them even if they do get a little soft.

In your place I might plan a fresh-berry dessert and keep my fingers crossed. If they looked too mushy on Tuesday morning, I'd call it Pie Time.
posted by Miko at 2:34 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here is an NY Times article I just saw on prolonging the life of berries. I've always had a problem with them getting moldy if they sit too long, and apparently a hot-water rinse can kill the mold spores that cause this.
posted by zombiedance at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

In my experience, it wasn't that berries got mushy that was the problem it was that they tend to mold. I've heard that washing them with a mild solution of vinegar can help retard mold growth:

As for storage, berries are prone to growing mold and rotting quickly. If the berries aren’t to be used immediately, we recommend cleaning the berries with a mild vinegar solution (3 cups water mixed with 1 cup white vinegar), which will destroy the bacteria, before drying them and storing them in a paper-towel lined airtight container.

Thus sayeth Cook's Illustrated but I've never tried that.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've done this before, since my farmer's market is Tuesday evenings and I was having people for dinner on Friday. I would recommend telling the vendors that you're planning to use the produce on Tuesday, and letting them pick out pieces that won't be overripe by then. My farmer's market vendors are really friendly, and happy to help me find things that will be perfect if I leave them sitting out a few days. If you don't tell them, the usual assumption is that you want them to be ripe and edible immediately. For berries and tomatoes, that wouldn't do at all.
posted by booknerd at 3:01 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't put the tomatoes in the fridge. They will lose their sweetness and become mealy in texture. If they're a little unripe, leave them on a window sill, otherwise in a paper bag in your fruitbowl. Maybe buy a couple extra in case of spoilage if they're very ripe.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:59 PM on August 28, 2009

Three days should be fine for most everything - I'm part of a CSA and I routinely use veggies and fruit four or five days after getting it.

As everyone else says, if the tomatoes are already ripe, try to keep them in a cool dark place (a lower cupboard works for me) but not in the fridge unless they're very ripe, since than can make them less tasty.

Everything else would be fine in the fridge, I think, or in a cool place for the potatoes. As mentioned, the raspberries/blackberries might be getting a little soft but not inedible by any stretch after three days.
posted by nicoleincanada at 1:22 PM on August 29, 2009

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