The Ottawa County Farmers Market shares tips for reducing food waste with information on how to properly store fresh purchases.

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States. According to the USDA, most American households throw out 40 percent of the food they purchase. One reason for this is food spoilage. So how can you ensure that the produce you purchase from the farmers market lasts longer? Here are a few tips to help you ensure your produce stays fresh.

Certain produce gives off a chemical called ethylene gas. This gas causes produce to ripen faster. Ethylene-producing produce includes apples, bananas, citrus, melons, and tomatoes. So be sure to keep this produce separate from all others while storing.

Berries are in season right now at the market. The best way to store them is to keep them in the fridge unwashed and in a single layer. Washing berries before you are ready to eat them will speed up the growth of mold, even when stored in a refrigerator. Other produce that should be kept in the fridge unwashed is mushrooms (keep in a paper bag) and okra. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, corn, green onions, lettuce, peas, and radishes should also be kept in the fridge unwashed, but they will last longer if you keep them in plastic bags. Produce that comes in bunches (greens, herbs) will last longer if you untie them and allow them to “breathe” while storing in the refrigerator. Many herbs will stay fresh longer if you put them in a jar of water and loosely covered with a sandwich bag. Other foods that do best when stored in the fridge include asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, green beans, leeks, spinach, plums, and summer squash. Produce that should be stored on the counter until they are ripe and then kept in the fridge include peaches, nectarines, and pears.

Did you know that cucumbers and tomatoes keep their flavor better when stored on the countertop? Keep basil, eggplant, peppers, and melons stored on the countertop to preserve their wonderful flavor. Winter squash, onions (kept away from potatoes), potatoes (kept away from onions), and sweet potatoes do best when stored in a cool, dry place like inside lower cabinets or in a basement.

This week at the Ottawa County Farmers Market, we will be focusing on reducing waste by teaching our visitors the best ways to store their purchases. Everyone who attends the market on June 21, and completes a short survey, will receive a free produce storage chart refrigerator magnet thanks to a generous donation from the Miami Public Library’s Health Literacy Grant. Veggie Victors Kid’s Club will be learning about eggplant this week. Bliss Yoga will be doing another free yoga class (for all ages) starting at 5:30 p.m. Mats and water will be provided and everyone who participates in yoga will receive Market Cash to get free fruits, veggies, and herbs! We will have live music from David Loving and the TSET Healthy Living Program will be manning the community table. Expect the season’s first blackberries, more tomatoes and cucumbers, eggs, baked goods, honey, mushrooms and more!

Join us every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. until October at 225 B St NW (All Saints Episcopal Church) in downtown Miami.