Produce Triage

Ever overwhelmed by the produce that comes in your CSA box…or maybe you’re not sure what to do with that Swiss Chard you picked up at the market?!?  Wendy is here to help…

Whether you scored a great deal at the farmer’s market, had a great harvest in your garden, or your CSA box is overflowing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a huge pile of vegetables. Don’t let it rot in the refrigerator–get out your cutting board, knife, storage bags or boxes, and get ready to tame the pile!

1. Decide what to do with lettuce.

Lettuce is the one thing that does not store well, so this needs to get eaten within 7-10 days or given away. I normally store these right in the salad spinner or in gallon freezer bags. Don’t forget to label containers!

2. Remove tops from bottoms.

Separate the tops from beets, carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, and other roots/tubers that grow in the ground. Put the tops in with your “greens” pile which would also include kale, Swiss chard, collards, and mustard greens. The roots will last for weeks in your refrigerator crisper drawer or a large gallon bag with a paper towel in it. Onions and potatoes go in a closet.

3. Tackle the greens pile.

We now turn our attention to the “greens” pile. To de-stem Swiss chard and kale, grasp the stem in one hand and strip the leaves with your other hand, by making a circle with your thumb and forefinger and running it up to the top of the leaf. Kale stems can be discarded or frozen for soups. Swiss chard stems will be chopped and bagged. The remaining greens can be chopped and stored in a plastic container or freezer bag. Members of the cabbage family also store well in the refrigerator.

4. Everything else.

You will now be left with what most people consider “vegetables,” that is corn, tomatoes, green beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers, etc. These don’t last super long in the refrigerator, so you’ll want to store these together so you can use them quickly for snacking, stir fries, throwing into scrambled eggs, etc. If you KNOW you’re not going to be able to eat it within the next week, there are a few things you can freeze without blanching–check out my post The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food.

By now your pile will have disappeared, tamed and neatly labeled and easy to find in your refrigerator. Congratulations!

Wendy Hammond grew up on a farm and has been a member of CSAs for five years. She blogs at The Local Cook as a way to inspire and help people eat locally and in season.


  1. Laurie says

    That’s what my fridge looks like! I also belong to a CSA. Now add to that a gallon or two of milk, assorted yogurts, juice, cottage cheese, and several containers of leftovers. Thanks for the tips.

  2. janetg says

    My fridge also looked like that. I have found it is so much easier for me to put my veggies into plastic baskets that sit on each shelf. I separate them based on how perishable they are. I am a bit of a neat freak but this also ensures I don’t let anything spoil. Green bags are also a help!

  3. says

    This is my rookie CSA summer and I’m swimming in corn :) What we don’t eat from last week’s delivery and I don’t have plans for this week, I freeze for later. I keep a bag of frozen peas, corn, green beans, and spinach in my freezer during the winter for in between shopping trips. I freeze those items first in my CSA for that time of the year. It’s easier for me to concentrate on the stuff that doesn’t freeze well or spoils more quickly. So far we haven’t had any food waste!

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