As summer fruits and vegetables start to roll into Maine farmers markets, I have a hard time restraining myself. So I simply buy them all! The allure of the first berries, the first summer peas, the first sun-ripened tomatoes, and, yes, even the first young, tender zucchinis is too much for me to resist. To make up for my enthusiasm, I take pains to store them properly so none goes to waste.

If you also find famers market produce irresistible and, like me, tend to overbuy, use these tips to keep your purchases in peak form until you’re ready to eat them. I’ve thrown in a few thoughts on selecting the best fruits and veggies in the first place, but in general go for plump, firm, vibrant produce and avoid the limp, yellowed, shriveled and slimy sorts (but you knew that).

Asparagus: When buying them, avoid pale ends, which are fibrous. Store asparagus like cut flowers, with ends trimmed and sitting in a jar of water in the refrigerator, for up to three days.

Berries: If you see juice leaking from the bottom of the berry container, it’s a sign that the berries are past their peak. Store berries uncovered in the fridge for two days, washing them just before eating.

Bok Choy: Refrigerate, unwashed, in a breathable bag for up to four days.

Broccoli: Choose broccoli (including broccolini) with tightly bound florets. Store heads of broccoli in the crisper for up to two weeks but wrap broccolini in a damp cloth before refrigerating it.


Cabbage: Pick small, tight heads. Store in an open bag in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Carrots: Choose plump carrots with perky greens, as limp greens will start pulling moisture from the roots. Store carrots, separated from their greens (which are great in pesto), in the crisper for as long as two weeks.

Cauliflower: Use ASAP as the heads brown quickly because condensation is attracted to cauliflower florets. But if you must hold the cauliflower, wrap it in a dry kitchen towel, and store it in the fridge for no longer than five days.

Celery: The freshest bunches have plenty of leaves on top. Store in a breathable bag for up to two weeks, breaking off stalks as you need them.

Chard, Collards and Kale: Store whole leaves in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp towel for up to five days.

Chicory: Store unwashed endive, escarole, or radicchio tightly wrapped in a towel in the fridge for up to two weeks.


Corn: Pick ears with vibrant husks and glossy silk. Store corn in their husks in the fridge for no more than three days.

Cucumbers: They can be smooth or bumpy skinned, but unless they are yellow varieties, cucumbers should be green, not yellow as for many types that’s a sign they are too mature. Store in the crisper and use within three days.

Eggplant: Choose small- and medium-sized ones (large ones can be bitter). Store at room temperature and use within four days.

Fennel: Attached bright, perky fronds signal the freshest fennel bulbs. Store in the crisper for up to two days with fronds attached. If you need to store the bulbs longer, remove the fronds.

(Cut) Flowers: Choose ones that make you happy. Clip the cut ends and remove the leaves sitting low on the stems before enjoying the bunch as they sit in 2 inches of water that you change regularly.

Garlic: Scapes should be bright green. Store them with the ends in a jar of water on the counter if the weather is cool or in the refrigerator if it’s hot out. Green garlic bulbs should be firm and stored in the crisper in a mesh bag for up to two weeks. Cured garlic bulbs should be plump and stored in a basket in a cool, dry place.


Ginger: Wrap unpeeled ginger in a towel and store it in the crisper for three to four weeks.

Green and wax beans: Pick beans that snap in half when you bend them. Store them in the fridge in a paper bag for up to a week.

Herbs: Store herbs in bouquets in jars with an inch of water on either the countertop or in the fridge.

Husk Cherries: The husks should be yellow and papery. Store husk cherries (also known as ground cherries) in a mesh bag in their husks, in a cool spot, for up to two weeks.

Kohlrabi: Select bulbs that are heavy for their size and have crisp, dark green leaves. As soon as you get home, separate the leaves from the bulbs. Store the former wrapped in a towel and the latter whole in the crisper. The leaves will last for four days, the bulbs for ten.

Leeks: Look for leeks that are predominately edible parts – the white and light green portions. (Save the dark greens to make soup stock.) Store unwashed, in an open bag, for up to two weeks.


(Head) lettuce: Choose tight, symmetrical heads that haven’t had outer leaves trimmed away. Store in the fridge in mesh or paper bags.

Lettuce mixes: Be sure the bag of greens doesn’t have water in the bottom. And keep in mind that different greens deteriorate at different rates, which can make such mixes tricky to store. Store the mix in the bag in the fridge.

Melons: Ripe musk melons like cantaloupe and honeydew should feel heavy and have skin with a yellowish undertone. Store whole melons in the fridge for up to a week. But let one sit on the counter overnight to develop flavor before cutting into it. Store any cut melon in the refrigerator.

Mushrooms: Choose fungi that smell fresh, feel firm and heavy for their size. Store in a paper bag away from strong-smelling foods. They will keep on the counter for a day or in the fridge for three to four days.

New Potatoes: Pick uniformly sized potatoes so they cook uniformly. Store in a dry, dark, cool cupboard.

Okra: For the sweetest, most tender okra, pick the ones under 3 inches long. Store them, unwashed, in a paper bag in the fridge for a maximum of three days as they mold quickly.


Onions: Storage onions should have dry outer skins and feel heavy for their size. Store  in a basket in a cool, dry place.

Peas: Store fresh peas in a paper bag in the fridge. They will keep for a week but are most delicious eaten as soon as possible.

Peppers: Hot or not, store bell and chili peppers in an open bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Radishes: Buy radishes (with no cracks) in bunches with leaves attached. Cut the leaves from the radishes before storing both in the refrigerator. The leaves will hold wrapped in a towel for a few days. The bulbs will last four days loose in the crisper or up to two weeks in an airtight container.

Rhubarb: Choose firm, red stalks and store them in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel for up to one week.

Spinach: Store unwashed in a towel for up to four days.


Stone fruit: While we don’t grow many apricots, nectarines, peaches, or plums in these parts, if you see them, choose ones that are vibrant in color (yellow, orange and purple with no green tinge) and aroma. Walk away if they are rock hard as the flesh should have a slight give. Store at room temperature.

Sunchokes: If your recipe calls for peeled ones, go with larger ones as peeling little ones is a hassle. Store in a loosely sealed bag in your crisper for two weeks.

Tomatoes: Store at room temperature because temperatures below 55 degrees F change their taste and texture and not for the better.

Tomatillos: These should be firm and shiny beneath their husks. If you’re using within a day, they can sit on the counter. Otherwise store them in a paper bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Watermelon: Pick one with a large, creamy yellow spot that indicates ripeness. Knock on it. It should sound hollow. Store whole ones in a dry, cool spot. Store cut watermelon in an airtight container in the fridge.

Yellow Squash and Zucchini: Select fruit (yes, that is right) that are about 8 inches long as larger ones can have lots of tough seeds and be dry and bitter. Store unwashed in a breathable bag in the refrigerator.


The raspberries are the icing on the cake, so to speak, and aren’t they pretty? Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Zucchini Olive Oil Spice Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe is adapted from a banana cake from Cooking Light that I have been making for over 20 years. It’s a good one that will help you use up at least a pound of zucchini. The raspberries are not necessary but they sure are pretty!

Makes a 9-inch layer cake

Butter to grease the pan
3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (more for preparing pans)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound (455g) zucchini, grated

8 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) room-temperature unsalted butter
2½ cups (275g) confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1½ teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 pints fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two (9-inch) cake pans.


To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fold in flour mixture. Stir in the zucchini.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick emerges clean when inserted in the center, 25-30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and continue to cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth in the bowl of a stand mixture. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar. Add lemon zest and juice, and the vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Frost 1 layer of cake with one-quarter of the frosting. Top with a ring of raspberries. Lay the other cake on top and use the remaining frosting to cover the cake completely. Decorate with the remaining raspberries.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the former editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

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