The One Factor to Consider When Using Fresh Produce

Hi Three to Five Tribe! Do you ever find yourself opening your refrigerator and find yourself perplexed on what to make for dinner? Should you make an Italian Cod Bake or a blood sugar balancing meal? Then again, there is always super simple spaghetti squash. Although all of these options may sound good, there is one factor to consider when deciding which fresh produce to enjoy first – respiration rate.

Respiration Rate

Plants begin to lose nutrients the minute they are picked, this is a natural process referred to as respiration. During this process, plants convert glucose into carbon dioxide and water using its own energy. Once the glucose is gone, the plant begins to wilt. Essentially, the plant breaks down its own nutrients to sustain itself. The longer a piece of produce sits in your refrigerator, the more time it has to use up its own nutrients to sustain itself, which means less nutrients for us when it comes time for a meal.  This concept also applies to shipping foods. The more distance and travel time your fresh produce takes to get to you, the more nutrients it needs to stay alive. Other elements like handling and temperature can speed up the respiration rate. All the more reason to shop local and support local farmers and growers!

Luckily for us, all fruits and vegetables have different rates of respiration, which is why it’s important to consider this factor when planning meals. If you don’t know the respiration rate of the produce in your refrigerator, think logically. Produce that doesn’t have skin, foods like asparagus, broccoli and spinach, should be eaten first, while foods like oranges, potatoes and squash can be eaten later.

Here is a quick go-to guide on the respiration rate of some popular produce items:

Extremely high respiration rate (Eat these foods first) : Asparagus, basil, mushrooms, parsley, peas, spinach and sweet corn.

Very high respiration rate: Artichoke, bean sprouts, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, endive, green onion, kale, okra, snap bean and watercress.

High respiration rate: Blackberry, carrots (with tops), cauliflower, leeks, lettuce leaves, lima beans, radish (with tops) raspberries and strawberries.

Moderate respiration rate: Apricot, banana, blueberry, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, celeriac, cherry, cucumber, fresh fig, gooseberry, lettuce heads, nectarine, olive, peach, pear, pepper, plum, potato (immature), summer squash and tomato.

Low respiration rate: Apple, beet, celery, cranberry, garlic, grapes, honeydew melon, onion, papaya, potato, sweet potato and watermelon.

Very low respiration rate (Eat these foods last): Dates, dried fruits, dried vegetables, nuts and seeds.

There is no right or wrong way to meal plan, but if you want your fresh produce to last longer, extend the shelf life of your favorite foods by reducing their respiration rates.

Considering the respiration of my produce three to five days a week,

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