Whether you're moving produce from your farm to the market or from the market to your catering gig, making sure your fruits and veggies arrive as fresh and delicious as the day they were picked is critical. Refrigerated trucking is ideal, but plenty of low-tech, inexpensive preservation methods keep produce looking appetizing for short-term road transport. Different types of produce have different requirements, but one rule remains constant: Cool the produce off, and keep it cool.
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Hydro-cool produce in a sink filled with cold water, or spray sturdy vegetables with cool running water. This step is especially critical to keep leafy greens from wilting but also helps maintain freshness in other vegetables. Exceptions include bulb onions, garlic and potatoes to be stored.
Pack produce into sturdy, opaque, breathable containers. Waxed cardboard boxes work well; plastic storage containers with holes drilled in them are also suitable. Fragile fruits and vegetables, such as peaches and tomatoes, should be packed in a single layer.
Keep all produce well shaded during transport. Pack containers into a windowless van or truck, or cover them with light plastic or synthetic fabric to help keep the sun off and moisture in.
Cool greens and other heat-sensitive vegetables, such as asparagus and broccoli, en route. These and many other heat-sensitive vegetables do best between 35 and 45 degrees F. Pack containers into coolers or insulated boxes with ice or ice packs.
When you reach your destination, refresh produce by soaking it in cool water or spritzing it with a spray bottle. Cool to optimum temperature as soon as possible.