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Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Culinary Institute of America

Orange Vegetables

Orange vegetables get their coloring from carotenoid pigments; beta carotene is the one the body converts into vitamin A. Their flesh can range in color from deep yellow (such as butternut squash) to dark orange (carrots), and their peels can be any color. These vegetables are typically very high in fiber and several of the B vitamins as well as vitamins C and even E, and some supply iron and magnesium.

Most of these vegetables store well at cool room temperature, though carrots are better refrigerated.


Although most people think of legumes as dried beans, this group includes thousands of plants: a legume has seed pods that split along both sides when ripe, and legumes are classified by whether these pods are edible. The most common include beans and soybeans, lentils, peanuts, and peas. Fresh beans and peas are sweetest and most tender when they are young. Once picked, their natural sugars begin to convert into starch. Garden peas are especially prone to flavor loss.

Most legumes are a good source of protein—for most of the world, they are the primary source of protein—and contain B vitamins like folate and riboflavin, vitamin E, complex carbohydrates, soluble and insoluble fiber, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables are usually roots and tubers that serve as nutrient reservoirs for the upper part of a plant. They are rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Tubers are enlarged, bulbous roots capable of generating a new plant. Potatoes are the most common tuber, but Jerusalem artichokes, jícama, and yams are others.

If leaves are attached to these vegetables, check to see that the greens are fresh; they should not be wilted or discolored. Remove them before storing and use within a few days. Root vegetables should be stored in a cool, dry place, unpeeled; properly stored, they will maintain their quality for several weeks.

These vegetables can be used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces in place of cream or roux. Pale and blander vegetables like potatoes or celeriac are more versatile than beets for these applications, unless you are preparing borscht.

Other Vegetables

This catchall category includes crucifers that aren’t dark green (such as cauliflower and red cabbage), foods that are botanically considered fruits (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash), as well as the extensive families of mushrooms and onions. These other vegetables vary considerably in nutrients, seasonality, and keeping qualities.

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