As households stock up on food amid COVID-19 concerns the quality of fresh food may become hard to maintain. Zero Waste Emporium and the Compost Education Centre have some suggestions for households looking for alternatives to preserve food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paula McThee the co-owner of Zero Waste Emporium, a package free grocery store in Victoria, says there are many ways households can use natural products to preserve food for much longer than if it sits in the fridge. McThee suggests making large batches of food to freeze, that way meals with a high level of nutrients can be made in advance. McThee also says using a natural product such as bees wax wrap can keep produce moist in the fridge and last longer.
Kayla Siefried, site manager and community education coordinator for Compost Education Centre, says there are alternative ways to preserve food that not only make it last longer, but also make the food more nutritious than fridge storage. Siefried learned canning and food preservation by helping her grandmother in the garden as a child accompanied with a bachelor of environmental studies at the University of Waterloo.
By preserving food through canning and dehydrating, Siefried says households can keep food fresh for up to a year. She suggests dehydrating produce such as herbs with a dehydrating machine or an oven.
To dehydrate at home, she says, place produce in the oven on the lowest heat with the oven door open. She says herbs can also be dried by placing them on a window screen. When dehydrating food at home, she says to be sure that all the moisture is out of the produce to prevent rotting. According the Siefried the Victoria Tool Library also has a dehydrator that residents can borrow.
There are two methods to canning, by a hot water bath and pressure cooker. Siefried says canning by hot water bath is the most accessible way to start canning, but is intended for low acid food. She stresses that newcomers to this preservation technique should follow a recipe and proper jar cleaning procedures.
Although fermenting food does not give produce the longest shelf life, Siefried says fermentation maintains more of a nutritional benefit to produce as it actively breeds beneficial microbes in the process. The fermentation process allows natural bacteria to stay in the food during the process.
For households strapped for time, Siefried suggests blanching vegetables and freezing them in a tight plastic container or bag. According to her, blanching is a quick boil of the vegetables for two to three minutes. She says raw vegetables can also be frozen, but it may change the texture of the vegetable.
As shoppers panic to empty grocery store shelves, home food preservation can be a way to involve children and other members in your family in an activity that will benefit the entire household.
“In terms of longevity and nutrition these processes are better than just using the fridge,” Siefreid says.
The Compost Education Centre is currently closed due to COVID-19, but classes are expected to resume when directed by provincial health authorities. To find out more about upcoming classes visit compost.bc.ca.
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