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Putting Plastic to Some Use

I just finished organizing all the wonderful produce I picked up from my CSA.  Today’s haul included pod peas, spinach, broccoli, fennel, kolrabi, summer squash, lettuce and beets, green onions, an assortment of herbs (mints, chamomile, oregano, thyme, chives, basil, dill, cilantro, edible flowers and lovage) and fresh cut flowers.  I just made myself a huge salad with two different kinds of lettuce, beet tops, and a little bit of just about everything I mentioned in that list.  For dressing I chopped up a green onion into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (ok, neither is local but both are organic and the olive oil is fair trade from Zatoun), and sea salt (bought by my mother while in the south of France).  Simple but tasty.  I have been eating a big bowl of greens like this at least once a day since the season really got going.  It’s a great way to get a lot of raw veggies into me.

While I tend to eat a lot of raw in the summer, I did do a little cooking the other day.  I made a pea and tarragon cold soup from a recipe I found on-line, but I can’t say that it swept me off my feet.  I am eating it, but I won’t be making it again.  On a more successful note, I made a very delicious potato salad recipe I found on Piecurious.  I modified it slightly as I didn’t have all the same ingredients.  It was so yummy that I’m going to make it again today.  I’ll post my slightly altered version of this salad below.

One of the first things I do after getting my veggies is prep them for eating, and also for staying fresh in the fridge.  I am slowly figuring out how to keep veggies fresh longer, which makes a very big difference in how well I use up my CSA share.  Lettuce I immediately chop, wash and spin, then put into large zip-lock bags with a bit of air to allow the leaves to breath and move about.  This makes for ready-to-use salad fixings that will last at least a week if not longer.

Carrots must have their tops removed immediately, and then I put them in a plastic bag with a little water in the bottom.  This will even revive limp carrots if you didn’t get them prepped soon enough.  I cut beet tops off, chop and wash the greens and put the greens into one bag, the beets into another. Beet tops will wilt within a day if left on the beets, but this way they stay perky for days, giving you time to find a use for them (such as steamed with butter, or in a stirfry).

As much as I hate plastic bags, putting veggies in them considerably extends their life span (of both the veggies and the usefulness of the bags).  I’m able to keep herbs fresh for well over a week that would normally be limp in a couple of days.  Some herbs I put in glasses of water either in the fridge or on the window sill.  These include basil, mint, thyme & oregano, chives and lovage.  But dill and cilantro, and other finely cut herbs, go into zip-lock bags with a spritz of water and stay quite fresh.  I use milk bags – washed and dried with their tops cut open – for long items like green onions.Green onions actually continue to grow if you put a little water in the bottom of their bag!

My fridge and crisper are now filled with plastic bags containing various fresh veggies.  Other than lettuce, all salad items are in clear bags in the crisper.  I can just pull the whole drawer out and rifle through it to make my salad.  I am a very visual person and need to see what I have in order to remember that it’s there, although my chalk board system is helping with the larger items wrapped in opaque grocery bags.  Having everything wrapped also helps contain the mess should something spoil, although this happens a lot less often now that I use this system.

Because I refuse to buy plastic bags, and refuse to accept them at stores, I have a finite number of plastic bags in my house.  I treat them as a valuable resource and take good care of them.  Upon emptying, each one is washed and hung to dry.  I have to admit that I hate washing plastic bags, and if I don’t clean them immediately, I tend to leave them until they get moldy, at which point I end up throwing them out.  That leaves me feeling pretty guilty, which has motivated me to stay on top of my bag washing.

My former roommate had a good system for washing plastic bags that I have adopted.  Very simply, after washing you clip the bags to a hanger with clothes pegs, then hook the hanger over a cupboard knobs or other hooks around the kitchen.  I’ll post a photo when I find batteries that work for my camera.  The only reason I would throw out a plastic bag is if it’s ripped or if it has held meat or oil.  Oil is all but impossible to clean out of a bag, and I simply don’t trust that I can get it clean enough once it’s held meat.  I do try to put both of these items into glass containers for easy cleaning, and to save the bags.  But it can’t always be avoided (and yes, I do feel mighty guilty any time I throw one out).

Well I’m finished my daily greens and am now ready to make that potato salad.  The original recipe can be found here.  My slightly modified version (based on what items I had in my kitchen) is as follows:

1lb new potatoes (or chopped adult potatoes), steamed

1 tbsp capers, drained
1 green onion or baby leek, chopped finely
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard powder
fresh dill, finely chopped (or other fresh herbs)
1/4 tsp sea salt

Toss the above with potatoes and grated cheddar cheese, to taste (I probably put in about half a cup).  Voila!  Super simple, super delicious.  I found that it tasted even better the second day, not that there was much left.

2 Responses

  1. I’m also struggling with the plastic problem. Yes they are convenient and can be very useful for storing produce, but I still feel bad about the long term impact. My mother always washed plastic milk bags which became our sandwich containers, but now I also wonder about the milk I drink from them. There’s no easy answer. I still waste more food than I should because of poor storage and lack of time to do it right.

    • Al- there definitely is no easy answer! I hate that milk comes in bags and do my best to buy it in glass bottles when I don’t get it from the farm in a reusable (albeit plastic) bucket (I’m looking for something non-plastic that is large enough to use instead). Then as soon as I get it home and skim the cream off for butter, I put it in glass jars. I don’t even like storing my food in the freezer in plastic! I’m sure there is still some exchange of toxins even in the cold.

      Oh, on the toxic milk issue, the first year I started seeds, I used milk cartons with holes in the bottom. Every single seedling I started in those cartons died, while others planted from the same seed packets and in the same soil, just different pots, did fine. That really scared me, and I’ve never bought milk in cartons again!

      As for wasting food, I am still quite guilty of that. Fortunately I can feed most waste to my dogs, and the rest goes into my composters which turn out soil in which to grow more food. So that helps me feel better about it. And I am getting better at not wasting this year, mostly for financial reasons. I get my CSA share and, other than picking up a short, pre-determined list of items at the market on Saturdays, that’s my groceries for the week. Pretty much forces me to eat it all!

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