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Wilburn: Tips to keep your fresh produce staying fresh
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When buying fresh produce, the simplest part is sometimes selecting it. As soon as you leave the store, your mission is to keep it fresh.

Which means the first line of defense starts in the car — and go directly home from the market!

Produce may decline in quality if left sitting in your car, especially when it is warm. Produce that tastes best stored at room temperature includes melons, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and winter squashes. Store produce in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight.

Some produce can be ripened on the counter and then stored in the refrigerator. Examples include peaches, pears and plums. Most other produce keeps best when stored in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 F or below.

Use your refrigerator crisper drawer for whole produce. Store fruits in a separate crisper drawer from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas, which can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits.

Refrigerate produce in perforated plastic bags to help maintain moisture yet provide air flow. If you don’t have access to commercial, perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag.

Wash hands before working with produce. Wash produce thoroughly under clean, running water. Wash produce just before you use it, NOT when you bring it home.

Area farmers markets are open
We are fortunate in Hall County to have locally grown produce available at two different locations. You can shop during the week or on the weekend, early or later. Read below to see what best fits your schedule. Come by either location for fresh, healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables and support your local farmers and vendors. You can also purchase plants, herbs, honey and a wide assortment of other locally grown products.

The Hall County Farmers Market is now open on Tuesdays starting at 6 a.m. until sell out and Saturdays 7 a.m. until sellout. The farmer’s market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway just off 985 at exit 24.

The Historic Downtown Gainesville Market on the Square is open each Friday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. The market is set up in the parking lot at Main and Spring Streets.

Canning, freezing and food preservation class July 14.

The Hall County Extension, in partnership with the Hall County Library System, will be offering a food preservation class on up-to-date resources for canning, freezing, drying, jelly making and pickling from 1-3 p.m. July 14 at the East Hall branch, 2435 Old Cornelia Highway, Gainesville. The cost of the program is $3 (per person or family). Registration is required by July 12; call 770-532-3311, ext 161. The $3 fee may be paid the day of the class.

This two-hour class provides basic resources as well as information on food preservation brochures, books, websites, online courses and DVDs. Everyone attending will receive a packet of information. So whether you are a beginner or experienced food preserver, come join us.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.