So, you survived the farmers market with kids in tow! You’re home in the kitchen with a boat load of gorgeous produce and a worn-out kiddo to boot. Now what?

It can be tempting to cram place everything into the refrigerator crisper and get on with your day, but taking some time to prep and organize those gorgeous fruits and veggies now will pay off in the long run. Farmers market produce is so fresh (and in some cases so delicate) that some of it needs a bit more TLC than the stuff you buy at the supermarket. Here are a few tips for maximizing your market haul at home:

In the Clear

It’s a huge post-farmers market bummer when, 2 weeks later, you unearth a now-crumpled and slimy bag of once-gorgeous goodies from the bottom of the crisper drawer. Those little plastic baggies the farmers provide are fine for transport but terrible for storage. They make it way too easy for stuff to end up lost, forgotten or smashed beyond saving. Instead take a few minute to transfer everything to clear plastic storage containers as soon as you get home. They may take up a bit more room in the fridge, but will keep delicate items from getting crushed and make it far easier to take inventory at a glance. This is also a great way to encourage the kids to choose healthy snacks like snap peas and carrot sticks — keep the good stuff washed, ready and conveniently located in clear containers at eye level. As a side note, purchased containers are great but I’ve found it’s cheaper (and more eco-friendly) to reuse those sturdy, plastic 1-quart containers that deli counters and take out joints use. We probably have two dozen of them in our cabinet right now (incidentally, they’re also every chefs’ favorite drink cup).

Bottoms Up on the Counter-top

While most of your produce will benefit from a cool, comfy spot in the fridge, a few items need to stay on the counter-top. Tomatoes and peaches will both turn mealy if you stick them in the refrigerator, destroying that farm-fresh flavor and texture you so desire. We’ve also taken a hint from the farmers at our market and started storing them upside down. Tomatoes, peaches and other round fruits will sit more securely on your counter-top (and may remain fresher longer) if you store them sitting on the divot where the stem sits.

Stand Up Straight

Treat bunches of delicate herbs such as basil, cilantro and parsley the same way you would a bunch of flowers. They’ll keep fresher longer if placed in the fridge with the stems submerged in water. A tall, wide-mouthed drinking glass or jelly jar works fine in a pinch, but if you buy large bunches of herbs often you might want to consider investing in an Herb Keeper. These nifty containers are specifically designed to keep bunches of herbs upright for easy access to the leaves (some also work great for asparagus and even squash blossoms). A small amount of water can be added to the bottom section to extend freshness. This one, from our sponsor Cuisipro, fits easily in most refrigerator doors (psst: if you’ve not done so yet, be sure to enter our Smart Kids at the Farmers Market giveaway below for your chance to win a Cuisipro Compact Herb Keeper and other prizes).

Cuisipro Compact Herb Keeper

Cuisipro Compact Herb Keeper

Leave the Leaves 

For root vegetables like carrots and beets it’s best to cut the stems off before storing them (the stems suck moisture from the root and can leach nutrients and color along with it). Cut the stems one or two inches above the root. In the case of beets, hang on to those greens! They’re full of nutrition and can be prepared in the same manner as chard or kale.

Scrub-a-Dub-Dub

You may have brought some of the farm home along with your farmers market veggies. Unlike supermarket produce that’s usually washed commercially, many of the goodies you pick up at the market will still have some dirt, sand or (yes, it’s true) possibly even a bug or two lurking. While it’s best to store most fruits and veggies in their unwashed state, once you’re ready to cook them, it’s important to give everything a good scrub.

For this task, nothing beats a few good vegetable brushes for thorough but gentle cleaning. This is also a great way to get little ones involved. Little kids will love rinsing produce under a running faucet and using a small scrubber to brush veggies clean. Cuisipro’s Flexible Vegetable and Mushroom Brushes are great for kids and adults alike because they flex to conform to hands and veggies while washing (and you can win your very own set by entering our giveaway!)

Cuisipro Flexible Vegetable Brush

Cuisipro Flexible Vegetable Brush

Cuisipro Flexible Mushroom Brush

Cuisipro Flexible Mushroom Brush

What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for maximizing farmers market goodies?

Note: Cuisipro is a personal client of mine; I receive compensation from them as a consultant. Smart Eating for Kids received product from Cuisipro to use as prizes in our Smart Eating at the Farmer’s Market Giveaway. All thoughts and opinions included in this post are my own. 

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